Systemic hypoxia inhibits T cell response by limiting mitobiogenesis via matrix substrate-level phosphorylation arrest

Elife. 2020 Nov 23;9:e56612. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56612.


Systemic oxygen restriction (SOR) is prevalent in numerous clinical conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and is associated with increased susceptibility to viral infections. However, the influence of SOR on T cell immunity remains uncharacterized. Here we show the detrimental effect of hypoxia on mitochondrial-biogenesis in activated mouse CD8+ T cells. We find that low oxygen level diminishes CD8+ T cell anti-viral response in vivo. We reveal that respiratory restriction inhibits ATP-dependent matrix processes that are critical for mitochondrial-biogenesis. This respiratory restriction-mediated effect could be rescued by TCA cycle re-stimulation, which yielded increased mitochondrial matrix-localized ATP via substrate-level phosphorylation. Finally, we demonstrate that the hypoxia-arrested CD8+ T cell anti-viral response could be rescued in vivo through brief exposure to atmospheric oxygen pressure. Overall, these findings elucidate the detrimental effect of hypoxia on mitochondrial-biogenesis in activated CD8+ T cells, and suggest a new approach for reducing viral infections in COPD.

Keywords: CD8 T cells; hypoxia; immunology; inflammation; mitochondria; mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Hypoxia / immunology
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Lentivirus / pathogenicity
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / immunology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Organelle Biogenesis*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate