bims-imseme Biomed News
on Immunosenescence and T cell metabolism
Issue of 2021‒03‒28
fourteen papers selected by
Pierpaolo Ginefra
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research


  1. Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 26. 12(1): 1921
      Crohn's disease (CD) is a chronic transmural inflammation of intestinal segments caused by dysregulated interaction between microbiome and gut immune system. Here, we profile, via multiple single-cell technologies, T cells purified from the intestinal epithelium and lamina propria (LP) from terminal ileum resections of adult severe CD cases. We find that intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) contain several unique T cell subsets, including NKp30+γδT cells expressing RORγt and producing IL-26 upon NKp30 engagement. Further analyses comparing tissues from non-inflamed and inflamed regions of patients with CD versus healthy controls show increased activated TH17 but decreased CD8+T, γδT, TFH and Treg cells in inflamed tissues. Similar analyses of LP find increased CD8+, as well as reduced CD4+T cells with an elevated TH17 over Treg/TFH ratio. Our analyses of CD tissues thus suggest a potential link, pending additional validations, between transmural inflammation, reduced IEL γδT cells and altered spatial distribution of IEL and LP T cell subsets.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22164-6
  2. Cancer Immunol Res. 2021 Mar 24. pii: canimm.0445.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      Metabolic dysfunction and exhaustion in tumor-infiltrating T cells have been linked to ineffectual anti-tumor immunity and the failure of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. We report here that chronic stress plays a previously unrecognized role in regulating the state of T cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME). Using two mouse tumor models, we found that blocking chronic adrenergic stress signaling using the pan β-blocker propranolol or by using mice lacking the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR), results in reduced tumor growth rates with significantly fewer infiltrating T cells that express markers of exhaustion, with a concomitant increase in progenitor exhausted T cells. We also report that blocking β-AR signaling in mice increases glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), which associated with increased expression of the costimulatory molecule CD28 and increased anti-tumor effector functions, including increased cytokine production. Using T cells from Nur77-GFP reporter mice to monitor T-cell activation, we observed that stress-induced β-AR signaling suppresses T-cell receptor (TCR) signaling. Together, these data suggest that chronic stress-induced adrenergic receptor signaling serves as a "checkpoint" of immune responses and contributes to immunosuppression in the TME by promoting T-cell metabolic dysfunction and exhaustion. These results also support the possibility that chronic stress, which unfortunately is increased in many cancer patients following their diagnoses, could be exerting a major negative influence on the outcome of therapies that depend upon the status of TILs and support the use of strategies to reduce stress or β-AR signaling in combination with immunotherapy.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-20-0445
  3. Nature. 2021 Mar 24.
      Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) can have viral or non-viral causes1-5. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an important driver of HCC. Immunotherapy has been approved for treating HCC, but biomarker-based stratification of patients for optimal response to therapy is an unmet need6,7. Here we report the progressive accumulation of exhausted, unconventionally activated CD8+PD1+ T cells in NASH-affected livers. In preclinical models of NASH-induced HCC, therapeutic immunotherapy targeted at programmed death-1 (PD1) expanded activated CD8+PD1+ T cells within tumours but did not lead to tumour regression, which indicates that tumour immune surveillance was impaired. When given prophylactically, anti-PD1 treatment led to an increase in the incidence of NASH-HCC and in the number and size of tumour nodules, which correlated with increased hepatic CD8+PD1+CXCR6+, TOX+, and TNF+ T cells. The increase in HCC triggered by anti-PD1 treatment was prevented by depletion of CD8+ T cells or TNF neutralization, suggesting that CD8+ T cells help to induce NASH-HCC, rather than invigorating or executing immune surveillance. We found similar phenotypic and functional profiles in hepatic CD8+PD1+ T cells from humans with NAFLD or NASH. A meta-analysis of three randomized phase III clinical trials that tested inhibitors of PDL1 (programmed death-ligand 1) or PD1 in more than 1,600 patients with advanced HCC revealed that immune therapy did not improve survival in patients with non-viral HCC. In two additional cohorts, patients with NASH-driven HCC who received anti-PD1 or anti-PDL1 treatment showed reduced overall survival compared to patients with other aetiologies. Collectively, these data show that non-viral HCC, and particularly NASH-HCC, might be less responsive to immunotherapy, probably owing to NASH-related aberrant T cell activation causing tissue damage that leads to impaired immune surveillance. Our data provide a rationale for stratification of patients with HCC according to underlying aetiology in studies of immunotherapy as a primary or adjuvant treatment.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03362-0
  4. Nat Immunol. 2021 Mar 25.
      Targeting the p53-MDM2 pathway to reactivate tumor p53 is a chemotherapeutic approach. However, the involvement of this pathway in CD8+ T cell-mediated antitumor immunity is unknown. Here, we report that mice with MDM2 deficiency in T cells exhibit accelerated tumor progression and a decrease in tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cell survival and function. Mechanistically, MDM2 competes with c-Cbl for STAT5 binding, reduces c-Cbl-mediated STAT5 degradation and enhances STAT5 stability in tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells. Targeting the p53-MDM2 interaction with a pharmacological agent, APG-115, augmented MDM2 in T cells, thereby stabilizing STAT5, boosting T cell immunity and synergizing with cancer immunotherapy. Unexpectedly, these effects of APG-115 were dependent on p53 and MDM2 in T cells. Clinically, MDM2 abundance correlated with T cell function and interferon-γ signature in patients with cancer. Thus, the p53-MDM2 pathway controls T cell immunity, and targeting this pathway may treat patients with cancer regardless of tumor p53 status.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-021-00888-3
  5. EMBO J. 2021 Mar 25. e106048
      Cellular senescence is characterized by an irreversible cell cycle arrest as well as a pro-inflammatory phenotype, thought to contribute to aging and age-related diseases. Neutrophils have essential roles in inflammatory responses; however, in certain contexts their abundance is associated with a number of age-related diseases, including liver disease. The relationship between neutrophils and cellular senescence is not well understood. Here, we show that telomeres in non-immune cells are highly susceptible to oxidative damage caused by neighboring neutrophils. Neutrophils cause telomere dysfunction both in vitro and ex vivo in a ROS-dependent manner. In a mouse model of acute liver injury, depletion of neutrophils reduces telomere dysfunction and senescence. Finally, we show that senescent cells mediate the recruitment of neutrophils to the aged liver and propose that this may be a mechanism by which senescence spreads to surrounding cells. Our results suggest that interventions that counteract neutrophil-induced senescence may be beneficial during aging and age-related disease.
    Keywords:  aging; neutrophils; senescence; telomeres
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.15252/embj.2020106048
  6. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 632667
      Patients infected by Leishmania braziliensis develop debilitating skin lesions. The role of inhibitory checkpoint receptors (ICRs) that induce T cell exhaustion during this disease is not known. Transcriptional profiling identified increased expression of ICRs including PD-1, PDL-1, PDL-2, TIM-3, and CTLA-4 in skin lesions of patients that was confirmed by immunohistology where there was increased expression of PD-1, TIM-3, and CTLA-4 in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets. Moreover, PDL-1/PDL-2 ligands were increased on skin macrophages compared to healthy controls. The proportions PD1+, but not TIM-3 or CTLA-4 expressing T cells in the circulation were positively correlated with those in the lesions of the same patients, suggesting that PD-1 may regulate T cell function equally in both compartments. Blocking PD-1 signaling in circulating T cells enhanced their proliferative capacity and IFN-γ production, but not TNF-α secretion in response to L. braziliensis recall antigen challenge in vitro. While we previously showed a significant correlation between the accumulation of senescent CD8+CD45RA+CD27- T cells in the circulation and skin lesion size in the patients, there was no such correlation between the extent of PD-1 expression by circulating on T cells and the magnitude of skin lesions suggesting that exhausted-like T cells may not contribute to the cutaneous immunopathology. Nevertheless, we identified exhausted-like T cells in both skin lesions and in the blood. Targeting this population by PD-1 blockade may improve T cell function and thus accelerate parasite clearance that would reduce the cutaneous pathology in cutaneous leishmaniasis.
    Keywords:  Leishmania braziliensis; PD-1; T cell exhaustion; cutaneous leishmaniasis; immunosenescence; inhibitory checkpoint receptors; senescent T cells
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.632667
  7. Front Immunol. 2021 ;12 636072
      The thymus is the primary site of T lymphocyte development, where mutually inductive signaling between lymphoid progenitors and thymic stromal cells directs the progenitors along a well-characterized program of differentiation. Although thymic stromal cells, including thymic epithelial cells (TECs) are critical for the development of T cell-mediated immunity, many aspects of their basic biology have been difficult to resolve because they represent a small fraction of thymus cellularity, and because their isolation requires enzymatic digestion that induces broad physiological changes. These obstacles are especially relevant to the study of metabolic regulation of cell function, since isolation procedures necessarily disrupt metabolic homeostasis. In contrast to the well-characterized relationships between metabolism and intracellular signaling in T cell function during an immune response, metabolic regulation of thymic stromal cell function represents an emerging area of study. Here, we review recent advances in three distinct, but interconnected areas: regulation of mTOR signaling, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and autophagy, with respect to their roles in the establishment and maintenance of the thymic stromal microenvironment.
    Keywords:  autophagy; mTOR; thymic stromal cells; thymus; tolerance
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.636072
  8. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 ;9 637424
      Aging-associated chronic inflammation is a key contributing factor to a cluster of chronic metabolic disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Immune cells particularly T cells accumulate in adipose tissue with advancing age, and there exists a cross talk between T cell and preadipocyte, contributing to age-related adipose tissue remodeling. Here, we compared the difference in morphology and function of adipose tissue between young (3-month-old) and old (18-month-old) mice and showed the phenomenon of brown adipose tissue (BAT) "whitening" in old mice. Flow cytometry analysis suggested an increased proportion of T cells in BAT of old mice comparing with the young and exhibited senescent characteristics. We take advantage of coculture system to demonstrate directly that senescent T cells inhibited brown adipocyte differentiation of preadipocytes in adipose tissue. Mechanistically, both in vitro and in vivo studies suggested that senescent T cells produced and released a higher level of IFN-γ, which plays a critical role in inhibition of preadipocyte-to-brown adipocyte differentiation. Taken together, the data indicate that senescent T cell-derived IFN-γ is a key regulator in brown adipocyte differentiation.
    Keywords:  IFN-γ; T cell; adipose tissue; brown adipocyte differentiation; preadipocyte; senescence
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.3389/fcell.2021.637424
  9. Cell Metab. 2021 Mar 18. pii: S1550-4131(21)00109-1. [Epub ahead of print]
      Recent studies in both mice and humans have suggested that gut microbiota could modulate tumor responsiveness to chemo- or immunotherapies. However, the underlying mechanism is not clear yet. Here, we found that gut microbial metabolites, especially butyrate, could promote the efficacy of oxaliplatin by modulating CD8+ T cell function in the tumor microenvironment. Butyrate treatment directly boosted the antitumor cytotoxic CD8+ T cell responses both in vitro and in vivo in an ID2-dependent manner by promoting the IL-12 signaling pathway. In humans, the oxaliplatin responder cancer patients exhibited a higher amount of serum butyrate than did non-responders, which could also increase ID2 expression and function of human CD8+ T cells. Together, our findings suggest that the gut microbial metabolite butyrate could promote antitumor therapeutic efficacy through the ID2-dependent regulation of CD8+ T cell immunity, indicating that gut microbial metabolites could be effective as a part of cancer therapy.
    Keywords:  CD8+ T cell; ID2; IL-12; antitumor therapy efficacy; butyrate; gut microbial metabolites
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2021.03.002
  10. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 30. pii: e2021385118. [Epub ahead of print]118(13):
      Conventional T cell fate and function are determined by coordination between cellular signaling and mitochondrial metabolism. Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are an important subset of "innate-like" T cells that exist in a preactivated effector state, and their dependence on mitochondrial metabolism has not been previously defined genetically or in vivo. Here, we show that mature iNKT cells have reduced mitochondrial respiratory reserve and iNKT cell development was highly sensitive to perturbation of mitochondrial function. Mice with T cell-specific ablation of Rieske iron-sulfur protein (RISP; T-Uqcrfs1 -/- ), an essential subunit of mitochondrial complex III, had a dramatic reduction of iNKT cells in the thymus and periphery, but no significant perturbation on the development of conventional T cells. The impaired development observed in T-Uqcrfs1 -/- mice stems from a cell-autonomous defect in iNKT cells, resulting in a differentiation block at the early stages of iNKT cell development. Residual iNKT cells in T-Uqcrfs1 -/- mice displayed increased apoptosis but retained the ability to proliferate in vivo, suggesting that their bioenergetic and biosynthetic demands were not compromised. However, they exhibited reduced expression of activation markers, decreased T cell receptor (TCR) signaling and impaired responses to TCR and interleukin-15 stimulation. Furthermore, knocking down RISP in mature iNKT cells diminished their cytokine production, correlating with reduced NFATc2 activity. Collectively, our data provide evidence for a critical role of mitochondrial metabolism in iNKT cell development and activation outside of its traditional role in supporting cellular bioenergetic demands.
    Keywords:  CD1; NKT cells; T cell development; knockout mice; mitochondrial metabolism
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021385118
  11. Cell Mol Immunol. 2021 Mar 25.
      Aluminum-containing adjuvants have been used for nearly 100 years to enhance immune responses in billions of doses of vaccines. To date, only a few adjuvants have been approved for use in humans, among which aluminum-containing adjuvants are the only ones widely used. However, the medical need for potent and safe adjuvants is currently continuously increasing, especially those triggering cellular immune responses for cytotoxic T lymphocyte activation, which are urgently needed for the development of efficient virus and cancer vaccines. Manganese is an essential micronutrient required for diverse biological activities, but its functions in immunity remain undefined. We previously reported that Mn2+ is important in the host defense against cytosolic dsDNA by facilitating cGAS-STING activation and that Mn2+ alone directly activates cGAS independent of dsDNA, leading to an unconventional catalytic synthesis of 2'3'-cGAMP. Herein, we found that Mn2+ strongly promoted immune responses by facilitating antigen uptake, presentation, and germinal center formation via both cGAS-STING and NLRP3 activation. Accordingly, a colloidal manganese salt (Mn jelly, MnJ) was formulated to act not only as an immune potentiator but also as a delivery system to stimulate humoral and cellular immune responses, inducing antibody production and CD4+/CD8+ T-cell proliferation and activation by either intramuscular or intranasal immunization. When administered intranasally, MnJ also worked as a mucosal adjuvant, inducing high levels of secretory IgA. MnJ showed good adjuvant effects for all tested antigens, including T cell-dependent and T cell-independent antigens, such as bacterial capsular polysaccharides, thus indicating that it is a promising adjuvant candidate.
    Keywords:  Manganese (Mn2+); NLRP3; adjuvant; antigen presentation; cGAS-STING
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41423-021-00669-w
  12. Nat Immunol. 2021 Mar 25.
      Individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) show metabolic alterations of CD4+ T cells through unclear mechanisms with undefined consequences. We analyzed the transcriptome of CD4+ T cells from patients with HIV-1 and revealed that the elevated oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway is associated with poor outcomes. Inhibition of OXPHOS by the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug metformin, which targets mitochondrial respiratory chain complex-I, suppresses HIV-1 replication in human CD4+ T cells and humanized mice. In patients, HIV-1 peak viremia positively correlates with the expression of NLRX1, a mitochondrial innate immune receptor. Quantitative proteomics and metabolic analyses reveal that NLRX1 enhances OXPHOS and glycolysis during HIV-1-infection of CD4+ T cells to promote viral replication. At the mechanistic level, HIV infection induces the association of NLRX1 with the mitochondrial protein FASTKD5 to promote expression of mitochondrial respiratory complex components. This study uncovers the OXPHOS pathway in CD4+ T cells as a target for HIV-1 therapy.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-021-00898-1