Lactate modulates RNA splicing to promote CTLA-4 expression in tumor-infiltrating regulatory T cells

Immunity. 2024 Mar 12;57(3):528-540.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2024.01.019. Epub 2024 Feb 27.


RNA splicing is involved in cancer initiation and progression, but how it influences host antitumor immunity in the metabolically abnormal tumor microenvironment (TME) remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that lactate modulates Foxp3-dependent RNA splicing to maintain the phenotypic and functional status of tumor-infiltrating regulatory T (Treg) cells via CTLA-4. RNA splicing in Treg cells was correlated with the Treg cell signatures in the TME. Ubiquitin-specific peptidase 39 (USP39), a component of the RNA splicing machinery, maintained RNA-splicing-mediated CTLA-4 expression to control Treg cell function. Mechanistically, lactate promoted USP39-mediated RNA splicing to facilitate CTLA-4 expression in a Foxp3-dependent manner. Moreover, the efficiency of CTLA-4 RNA splicing was increased in tumor-infiltrating Treg cells from patients with colorectal cancer. These findings highlight the immunological relevance of RNA splicing in Treg cells and provide important insights into the environmental mechanism governing CTLA-4 expression in Treg cells.

Keywords: CTLA-4; RNA splicing; Treg cells; lactate.

MeSH terms

  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory*
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Ubiquitin-Specific Proteases / metabolism


  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Lactic Acid
  • Ubiquitin-Specific Proteases
  • USP39 protein, human
  • CTLA4 protein, human