Mitochondria constantly adapt to the metabolic needs of a cell. This mitochondrial plasticity is critical to T cells, which modulate metabolism depending on antigen-driven signals and environment. We show here that de novo synthesis of the mitochondrial membrane-specific lipid cardiolipin maintains CD8+ T cell function. T cells deficient for the cardiolipin-synthesizing enzyme PTPMT1 had reduced cardiolipin and responded poorly to antigen because basal cardiolipin levels were required for activation. However, neither de novo cardiolipin synthesis, nor its Tafazzin-dependent remodeling, was needed for T cell activation. In contrast, PTPMT1-dependent cardiolipin synthesis was vital when mitochondrial fitness was required, most notably during memory T cell differentiation or nutrient stress. We also found CD8+ T cell defects in a small cohort of patients with Barth syndrome, where TAFAZZIN is mutated, and in a Tafazzin-deficient mouse model. Thus, the dynamic regulation of a single mitochondrial lipid is crucial for CD8+ T cell immunity.
Keywords: Barth Syndrome; CD8 T cells; PTPMT1; Tafazzin; cardiolipin; immune memory; immunometabolism; mitochodria.
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