Competition for nutrients like glucose can metabolically restrict T cells and contribute to their hyporesponsiveness during cancer. Metabolic adaptation to the surrounding microenvironment is therefore key for maintaining appropriate cell function. For instance, cancer cells use acetate as a substrate alternative to glucose to fuel metabolism and growth. Here, we show that acetate rescues effector function in glucose-restricted CD8+ T cells. Mechanistically, acetate promotes histone acetylation and chromatin accessibility and enhances IFN-γ gene transcription and cytokine production in an acetyl-CoA synthetase (ACSS)-dependent manner. Ex vivo acetate treatment increases IFN-γ production by exhausted T cells, whereas reducing ACSS expression in T cells impairs IFN-γ production by tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and tumor clearance. Thus, hyporesponsive T cells can be epigenetically remodeled and reactivated by acetate, suggesting that pathways regulating the use of substrates alternative to glucose could be therapeutically targeted to promote T cell function during cancer.
Keywords: T cell exhaustion; T cell hyporesponsiveness; T cells; acetate; acetyl-CoA synthetase; chromatin remodeling; effector functions; tumor immunity; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.