Metabolic programs of T cell tissue residency empower tumour immunity

Nature. 2023 Sep;621(7977):179-187. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06483-w. Epub 2023 Aug 30.


Tissue resident memory CD8+ T (TRM) cells offer rapid and long-term protection at sites of reinfection1. Tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes with characteristics of TRM cells maintain enhanced effector functions, predict responses to immunotherapy and accompany better prognoses2,3. Thus, an improved understanding of the metabolic strategies that enable tissue residency by T cells could inform new approaches to empower immune responses in tissues and solid tumours. Here, to systematically define the basis for the metabolic reprogramming supporting TRM cell differentiation, survival and function, we leveraged in vivo functional genomics, untargeted metabolomics and transcriptomics of virus-specific memory CD8+ T cell populations. We found that memory CD8+ T cells deployed a range of adaptations to tissue residency, including reliance on non-steroidal products of the mevalonate-cholesterol pathway, such as coenzyme Q, driven by increased activity of the transcription factor SREBP2. This metabolic adaptation was most pronounced in the small intestine, where TRM cells interface with dietary cholesterol and maintain a heightened state of activation4, and was shared by functional tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes in diverse tumour types in mice and humans. Enforcing synthesis of coenzyme Q through deletion of Fdft1 or overexpression of PDSS2 promoted mitochondrial respiration, memory T cell formation following viral infection and enhanced antitumour immunity. In sum, through a systematic exploration of TRM cell metabolism, we reveal how these programs can be leveraged to fuel memory CD8+ T cell formation in the context of acute infections and enhance antitumour immunity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes* / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes* / metabolism
  • Cell Respiration
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Intestine, Small / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating* / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating* / metabolism
  • Metabolomics
  • Mevalonic Acid / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Ubiquinone / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Viruses / immunology


  • Cholesterol
  • Mevalonic Acid
  • prenyl diphosphate synthase, subunit 2, human
  • SREBF2 protein, human
  • Ubiquinone