Lactate exposure shapes the metabolic and transcriptomic profile of CD8+ T cells

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CD8+ T cells infiltrate virtually every tissue to find and destroy infected or mutated cells. They often traverse varying oxygen levels and nutrient-deprived microenvironments. High glycolytic activity in local tissues can result in significant exposure of cytotoxic T cells to the lactate metabolite. Lactate has been known to act as an immunosuppressor, at least in part due to its association with tissue acidosis.
To dissect the role of the lactate anion, independently of pH, we performed phenotypical and metabolic assays, high-throughput RNA sequencing, and mass spectrometry, on primary cultures of murine or human CD8+ T cells exposed to high doses of pH-neutral sodium lactate.
The lactate anion is well tolerated by CD8+ T cells in pH neutral conditions. We describe how lactate is taken up by activated CD8+ T cells and can displace glucose as a carbon source. Activation in the presence of sodium lactate significantly alters the CD8+ T cell transcriptome, including the expression key effector differentiation markers such as granzyme B and interferon-gamma.
Our studies reveal novel metabolic features of lactate utilization by activated CD8+ T cells, and highlight the importance of lactate in shaping the differentiation and activity of cytotoxic T cells.

Journal details

Volume 14
Pages 1101433
Available online
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Crick authors

Crick First author
Crick Corresponding author