Microbial short-chain fatty acids: a strategy to tune adoptive T cell therapy

J Immunother Cancer. 2022 Jul;10(7):e004147. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2021-004147.


The gut microbiota and its metabolites have been shown to play a pivotal role in the regulation of metabolic, endocrine and immune functions. Though the exact mechanism of action remains to be fully elucidated, available knowledge supports the ability of microbiota-fermented short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate, to influence epigenetic and metabolic cascades controlling gene expression, chemotaxis, differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis in several non-immune and immune cell subsets. While used as preferred metabolic substrates and sources of energy by colonic gut epithelial cells, most recent evidence indicates that these metabolites regulate immune functions, and in particular fine-tune T cell effector, regulatory and memory phenotypes, with direct in vivo consequences on the efficacy of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. Most recent data also support the use of these metabolites over the course of T cell manufacturing, paving the way for refined adoptive T cell therapy engineering. Here, we review the most recent advances in the field, highlighting in vitro and in vivo evidence for the ability of SCFAs to shape T cell phenotypes and functions.

Keywords: T-lymphocytes; immunotherapy, adoptive; lymphocyte activation; review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Colon
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Microbiota*


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile