Lactate Buildup at the Site of Chronic Inflammation Promotes Disease by Inducing CD4+ T Cell Metabolic Rewiring

Cell Metab. 2019 Dec 3;30(6):1055-1074.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.10.004. Epub 2019 Nov 7.


Accumulation of lactate in the tissue microenvironment is a feature of both inflammatory disease and cancer. Here, we assess the response of immune cells to lactate in the context of chronic inflammation. We report that lactate accumulation in the inflamed tissue contributes to the upregulation of the lactate transporter SLC5A12 by human CD4+ T cells. SLC5A12-mediated lactate uptake into CD4+ T cells induces a reshaping of their effector phenotype, resulting in increased IL17 production via nuclear PKM2/STAT3 and enhanced fatty acid synthesis. It also leads to CD4+ T cell retention in the inflamed tissue as a consequence of reduced glycolysis and enhanced fatty acid synthesis. Furthermore, antibody-mediated blockade of SLC5A12 ameliorates the disease severity in a murine model of arthritis. Finally, we propose that lactate/SLC5A12-induced metabolic reprogramming is a distinctive feature of lymphoid synovitis in rheumatoid arthritis patients and a potential therapeutic target in chronic inflammatory disorders.

Keywords: T cell; cytokines; immunometabolism; inflammation; lactate; lactate transporter; metabolic crosstalk; signaling; translational research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / genetics
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / physiology*
  • Symporters / genetics
  • Symporters / physiology*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Interleukin-17
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • SLC5A12 protein, human
  • Slc5a12 protein, mouse
  • Symporters
  • Lactic Acid