Lactate supports a metabolic-epigenetic link in macrophage polarization

Sci Adv. 2021 Nov 12;7(46):eabi8602. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abi8602. Epub 2021 Nov 12.


Lactate accumulation is a hallmark of solid cancers and is linked to the immune suppressive phenotypes of tumor-infiltrating immune cells. We report herein that interleukin-4 (IL-4)–induced M0 → M2 macrophage polarization is accompanied by interchangeable glucose- or lactate-dependent tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle metabolism that directly drives histone acetylation, M2 gene transcription, and functional immune suppression. Lactate-dependent M0 → M2 polarization requires both mitochondrial pyruvate uptake and adenosine triphosphate–citrate lyase (ACLY) enzymatic activity. Notably, exogenous acetate rescues defective M2 polarization and histone acetylation following mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1 (MPC1) inhibition or ACLY deficiency. Lastly, M2 macrophage–dependent tumor progression is impaired by conditional macrophage ACLY deficiency, further supporting a dominant role for glucose/lactate mitochondrial metabolism and histone acetylation in driving immune evasion. This work adds to our understanding of how mitochondrial metabolism affects macrophage functional phenotypes and identifies a unique tumor microenvironment (TME)–driven metabolic-epigenetic link in M2 macrophages.