Metabolic regulation by PD-1 signaling promotes long-lived quiescent CD8 T cell memory in mice

Sci Transl Med. 2021 Oct 13;13(615):eaba6006. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aba6006. Epub 2021 Oct 13.


Inhibitory signaling in dysfunctional CD8 T cells through the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) axis is well established in chronic viral infections and cancers. PD-1 is also transiently induced to high concentrations during priming of acute infections and immunizations, yet its impact on the development of long-lived antigen-independent T cell memory remains unclear. In addition to its expected role in restraining clonal effector expansion, here, we show that PD-1 expression on antigen-specific CD8 T cells is required for the development of a durable CD8 T cell memory pool after antigen clearance. Loss of T cell–specific PD-1 signaling led to increased contraction and a defect in antigen-independent renewal of memory CD8 T cells in response to homeostatic cytokine signals, thus resulting in attrition of the memory pool over time. Whereas exhausted CD8 T cells regain function after PD-1 checkpoint blockade during chronic viral infection, the preexisting pool of resting functional bystander memory CD8 T cells established in response to a previously administered immunogen decreased. Metabolically, PD-1 signals were necessary for regulating the critical balance of mTOR-dependent anabolic glycolysis and fatty acid oxidation programs to meet the bioenergetic needs of quiescent CD8 T cell memory. These results define PD-1 as a key metabolic regulator of protective T cell immunity. Furthermore, these results have potential clinical implications for preexisting CD8 T cell memory during PD-1 checkpoint blockade therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor