bims-imseme Biomed News
on Immunosenescence and T cell metabolism
Issue of 2021‒01‒10
eighteen papers selected by
Pierpaolo Ginefra
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

  1. Nat Immunol. 2021 Jan 04.
      Cancer and chronic infections induce T cell exhaustion, a hypofunctional fate carrying distinct epigenetic, transcriptomic and metabolic characteristics. However, drivers of exhaustion remain poorly understood. As intratumoral exhausted T cells experience severe hypoxia, we hypothesized that metabolic stress alters their responses to other signals, specifically, persistent antigenic stimulation. In vitro, although CD8+ T cells experiencing continuous stimulation or hypoxia alone differentiated into functional effectors, the combination rapidly drove T cell dysfunction consistent with exhaustion. Continuous stimulation promoted Blimp-1-mediated repression of PGC-1α-dependent mitochondrial reprogramming, rendering cells poorly responsive to hypoxia. Loss of mitochondrial function generated intolerable levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), sufficient to promote exhausted-like states, in part through phosphatase inhibition and the consequent activity of nuclear factor of activated T cells. Reducing T cell-intrinsic ROS and lowering tumor hypoxia limited T cell exhaustion, synergizing with immunotherapy. Thus, immunologic and metabolic signaling are intrinsically linked: through mitigation of metabolic stress, T cell differentiation can be altered to promote more functional cellular fates.
  2. Biometals. 2021 Jan 03.
      Age-related T cell dysfunction contributes to immunosenescence and chronic inflammation. Aging is also associated with a progressive decline in zinc status. Zinc is an essential micronutrient critical for immune function. A significant portion of the older populations are at risk for marginal zinc deficiency. The combined impact of dietary zinc deficiency and age on immune dysfunction has not been well explored despite the common occurrence together in the elderly population. We hypothesize that age-related zinc loss contributes to T cell dysfunction and chronic inflammation in the elderly and is exacerbated by inadequate dietary intake and improved with zinc supplementation. Using an aging mouse model, the effects of marginal zinc deficiency and zinc supplementation on Th1/Th17/proinflammatory cytokine profiles and CD4+ T cell naïve/memory phenotypes were examined. In the first study, young (2 months) and old (24 months) C57BL/6 mice were fed a zinc adequate (ZA) or marginally zinc deficient (MZD) diets for 6 weeks. In the second study, mice were fed a ZA or zinc supplemented (ZS) diet for 6 weeks. MZD old mice had significant increase in LPS-induced IL6 compared to ZA old mice. In contrast, ZS old mice had significantly reduced plasma MCP1 levels, reduced T cell activation-induced IFNγ, IL17, and TNFα response, as well as increased naïve CD4+ T-cell subset compared to ZA old mice. Our data suggest that zinc deficiency is an important contributing factor in immune aging, and improving zinc status can in part reverse immune dysfunction and reduce chronic inflammation associated with aging.
    Keywords:  Aging; Immune dysfunction; Inflammation; T cells; Zinc
  3. Nat Immunol. 2021 Jan 04.
      Metabolic reprograming toward aerobic glycolysis is a pivotal mechanism shaping immune responses. Here we show that deficiency in NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK) impairs glycolysis induction, rendering CD8+ effector T cells hypofunctional in the tumor microenvironment. Conversely, ectopic expression of NIK promotes CD8+ T cell metabolism and effector function, thereby profoundly enhancing antitumor immunity and improving the efficacy of T cell adoptive therapy. NIK regulates T cell metabolism via a NF-κB-independent mechanism that involves stabilization of hexokinase 2 (HK2), a rate-limiting enzyme of the glycolytic pathway. NIK prevents autophagic degradation of HK2 through controlling cellular reactive oxygen species levels, which in turn involves modulation of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), an enzyme that mediates production of the antioxidant NADPH. We show that the G6PD-NADPH redox system is important for HK2 stability and metabolism in activated T cells. These findings establish NIK as a pivotal regulator of T cell metabolism and highlight a post-translational mechanism of metabolic regulation.
  4. Nat Metab. 2021 Jan 04.
      Metabolic transformation is a hallmark of cancer and a critical target for cancer therapy. Cancer metabolism and behaviour are regulated by cell-intrinsic factors as well as metabolite availability in the tumour microenvironment (TME). This metabolic niche within the TME is shaped by four tiers of regulation: (1) intrinsic tumour cell metabolism, (2) interactions between cancer cells and non-cancerous cells, (3) tumour location and heterogeneity and (4) whole-body metabolic homeostasis. Here, we define these modes of metabolic regulation and review how distinct cell types contribute to the metabolite composition of the TME. Finally, we connect these insights to understand how each of these tiers offers unique therapeutic potential to modulate the metabolic profile and function of all cells inhabiting the TME.
  5. Nat Cell Biol. 2021 Jan;23(1): 75-86
      Nutrient availability is central for T-cell functions and immune responses. Here we report that CD8+ T-cell activation and anti-tumour responses are strongly potentiated by the non-essential amino acid Asn. Increased Asn levels enhance CD8+ T-cell activation and effector functions against tumour cells in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, restriction of dietary Asn, ASNase administration or inhibition of the Asn transporter SLC1A5 impairs the activity and responses of CD8+ T cells. Mechanistically, Asn does not directly alter cellular metabolic fluxes; it instead binds the SRC-family protein tyrosine kinase LCK and orchestrates LCK phosphorylation at Tyr 394 and 505, thereby leading to enhanced LCK activity and T-cell-receptor signalling. Thus, our findings reveal a critical and metabolism-independent role for Asn in the direct modulation of the adaptive immune response by controlling T-cell activation and efficacy, and further uncover that LCK is a natural Asn sensor signalling Asn sufficiency to T-cell functions.
  6. J Thorac Oncol. 2020 Dec 31. pii: S1556-0864(20)31136-9. [Epub ahead of print]
      INTRODUCTION: Lung adenocarcinomas harboring EGFR mutations do not respond to immune checkpoint blockade therapy as well as their EGFR wildtype counterpart. The mechanisms underlying this lack of clinical response have been investigated but remain incompletely understood.METHODS: We analyzed three cohorts of resected lung adenocarcinomas (PROSPECT, ICON and TCGA) and compared tumor immune microenvironment of EGFR-mutant tumors to EGFR-wildtype (WT) tumors, to identify actionable regulators to target and potentially enhance the treatment response.
    RESULTS: EGFR-mutant NSCLC exhibited low PD-L1, low tumor mutational burden, decreased number of cytotoxic T cells, and low T cell receptor clonality, consistent with an immune-inert phenotype, though T cell expansion ex vivo was preserved. In an analysis of 75 immune checkpoint genes, the top up-regulated genes in the EGFR-mutant tumors (NT5E and ADORA1) belonged to the CD73/adenosine pathway. Single-cell analysis demonstrated that the tumor cell population expressed CD73, both in the treatment-naïve and resistant tumors. Using co-culture systems with EGFR-mutant NSCLC cells, T regulatory cell proportion was decreased with CD73 knockdown. In an immune-competent mouse model of EGFR-mutant lung cancer, the CD73/adenosine pathway was markedly upregulated and CD73 blockade significantly inhibited tumor growth.
    CONCLUSIONS: Our work demonstrated that EGFR-mutant NSLCLC has an immune-inert phenotype. We identified the CD73/adenosine pathway as a potential therapeutic target for EGFR-mutant NSCLC.
  7. Clin Sci (Lond). 2021 Jan 15. 135(1): 35-52
      Cancers may escape elimination by the host immune system by rewiring the tumour microenvironment towards an immune suppressive state. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a secreted multifunctional cytokine that strongly regulates the activity of immune cells while, in parallel, can promote malignant features such as cancer cell invasion and migration, angiogenesis, and the emergence of cancer-associated fibroblasts. TGF-β is abundantly expressed in cancers and, most often, its abundance associated with poor clinical outcomes. Immunotherapeutic strategies, particularly T cell checkpoint blockade therapies, so far, only produce clinical benefit in a minority of cancer patients. The inhibition of TGF-β activity is a promising approach to increase the efficacy of T cell checkpoint blockade therapies. In this review, we briefly outline the immunoregulatory functions of TGF-β in physiological and malignant contexts. We then deliberate on how the therapeutic targeting of TGF-β may lead to a broadened applicability and success of state-of-the-art immunotherapies.
    Keywords:  T cells; cancer immunotherapy; checkpoint blockade therapy; combination therapy; transforming growth factor beta; tumour microenvironment
  8. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2021 Jan 06. pii: glab002. [Epub ahead of print]
      Cellular senescence contributes to age-related disorders including physical dysfunction, disabilities and mortality caused by tissue inflammation and damage. Senescent cells accumulate in multiple tissues with aging and at etiological sites of multiple chronic disorders. The senolytic drug combination, Dasatinib plus Quercetin (D+Q), is known to reduce senescent cell abundance in aged mice. However, the effects of long-term D+Q treatment on intestinal senescent cell and inflammatory burden and microbiome composition in aged mice remain unknown. Here, we examine the effect of D+Q on senescence (p16 Ink4a and p21 Cip1) and inflammation (Cxcl1, Il1β, Il6, Mcp1, and Tnfα) markers in small (ileum) and large (caecum and colon) intestine in aged mice (n=10) compared to age-matched placebo-treated mice (n=10). Additionally, we examine microbial composition along the intestinal tract in these mice. D+Q-treated mice show significantly lower senescent cell (p16 and p21 expression) and inflammatory (Cxcl1, Il1β, Il6, Mcp1 and Tnfα expression) burden in small and large intestine compared with control mice. Further, we find specific microbial signatures in ileal, cecal, colonic and fecal regions that are distinctly modulated by D+Q, with modulation being most prominent in small intestine. Further analyses reveal specific correlation of senescence and inflammation markers with specific microbial signatures. Together, these data demonstrate that the senolytic treatment reduces intestinal senescence and inflammation while altering specific microbiota signatures and suggest that the optimized senolytic regimens might improve health via reducing intestinal senescence, inflammation and microbial dysbiosis in older subjects.
    Keywords:  biology of aging; cellular senescence; longevity; microbiome; microbiota
  9. Nat Methods. 2021 Jan;18(1): 92-99
      Many experimental and bioinformatics approaches have been developed to characterize the human T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire. However, the unknown functional relevance of TCR profiling hinders unbiased interpretation of the biology of T cells. To address this inadequacy, we developed tessa, a tool to integrate TCRs with gene expression of T cells to estimate the effect that TCRs confer on the phenotypes of T cells. Tessa leveraged techniques combining single-cell RNA-sequencing with TCR sequencing. We validated tessa and showed its superiority over existing approaches that investigate only the TCR sequences. With tessa, we demonstrated that TCR similarity constrains the phenotypes of T cells to be similar and dictates a gradient in antigen targeting efficiency of T cell clonotypes with convergent TCRs. We showed this constraint could predict a functional dichotomization of T cells postimmunotherapy treatment and is weakened in tumor contexts.
  10. Aging (Albany NY). 2021 Jan 06. 12
      Although several evidence has suggested the impact of exercise on the prevention of aging phenotypes, few studies have been conducted on the mechanism by which exercise alters the immune-cell profile, thereby improving metabolism in senile obesity. In this study, we confirmed that 4-week treadmill exercise sufficiently improved metabolic function, including increased lean mass and decreased fat mass, in 88-week-old mice. The expression level of the senescence marker p16 in the white adipose tissue (WAT) was decreased after 4-weeks of exercise. Exercise induced changes in the profiles of immune-cell subsets, including natural killer (NK) cells, central memory CD8+ T cells, eosinophils, and neutrophils, in the stromal vascular fraction of WAT. In addition, it has been shown through transcriptome analysis of WAT that exercise can activate pathways involved in the interaction between WAT and immune cells, in particular NK cells, in aged mice. These results suggest that exercise has a profound effect on changes in immune-cell distribution and senescent-cell scavenging in WAT of aged mice, eventually affecting overall energy metabolism toward a more youthful state.
    Keywords:  NK cell; aging; exercise; immunosenescence; metabolism
  11. Nat Med. 2021 Jan 04.
      Metastasis is the primary cause of cancer mortality, and cancer frequently metastasizes to the liver. It is not clear whether liver immune tolerance mechanisms contribute to cancer outcomes. We report that liver metastases diminish immunotherapy efficacy systemically in patients and preclinical models. Patients with liver metastases derive limited benefit from immunotherapy independent of other established biomarkers of response. In multiple mouse models, we show that liver metastases siphon activated CD8+ T cells from systemic circulation. Within the liver, activated antigen-specific Fas+CD8+ T cells undergo apoptosis following their interaction with FasL+CD11b+F4/80+ monocyte-derived macrophages. Consequently, liver metastases create a systemic immune desert in preclinical models. Similarly, patients with liver metastases have reduced peripheral T cell numbers and diminished tumoral T cell diversity and function. In preclinical models, liver-directed radiotherapy eliminates immunosuppressive hepatic macrophages, increases hepatic T cell survival and reduces hepatic siphoning of T cells. Thus, liver metastases co-opt host peripheral tolerance mechanisms to cause acquired immunotherapy resistance through CD8+ T cell deletion, and the combination of liver-directed radiotherapy and immunotherapy could promote systemic antitumor immunity.
  12. Nat Commun. 2021 01 04. 12(1): 57
      Autophagy catabolizes cellular constituents to promote survival during nutrient deprivation. Yet, a metabolic comprehension of this recycling operation, despite its crucial importance, remains incomplete. Here, we uncover a specific metabolic function of autophagy that exquisitely adjusts cellular metabolism according to nitrogen availability in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Autophagy enables metabolic plasticity to promote glutamate and aspartate synthesis, which empowers nitrogen-starved cells to replenish their nitrogen currency and sustain macromolecule synthesis. Our findings provide critical insights into the metabolic basis by which autophagy recycles cellular components and may also have important implications in understanding the role of autophagy in diseases such as cancer.
  13. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 30. pii: E283. [Epub ahead of print]22(1):
      Achieving a functional cure for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection or complete elimination of HBV covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) has been challenging in the treatment of patients with chronic HBV infection. Although novel antivirals are being investigated, improving HBV-specific adaptive immune responses is also important for durable viral clearance. Tissue-resident memory CD8+ T (TRM) cells were recently reported as a T-cell population that resides in peripheral tissues and does not recirculate. TRM cells have been studied in the livers of mice and humans. Liver TRM cells have distinct characteristics compared to T cells in peripheral blood or other tissues, which may be associated with the unique microenvironment of the liver. In this review, we describe the characteristics of liver TRM cells and their implications in chronic HBV infection. We emphasize that liver TRM cells can be an immunotherapeutic target for the treatment of chronic HBV infection.
    Keywords:  chronic HBV infection; liver-resident T cell; tissue-resident T cell
  14. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 31. pii: E362. [Epub ahead of print]22(1):
      Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), including Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), which differ in the location and lesion extensions. Both diseases are associated with microbiota dysbiosis, with a reduced population of butyrate-producing species, abnormal inflammatory response, and micronutrient deficiency (e.g., vitamin D hypovitaminosis). Vitamin D (VitD) is involved in immune cell differentiation, gut microbiota modulation, gene transcription, and barrier integrity. Vitamin D receptor (VDR) regulates the biological actions of the active VitD (1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3), and is involved in the genetic, environmental, immune, and microbial aspects of IBD. VitD deficiency is correlated with disease activity and its administration targeting a concentration of 30 ng/mL may have the potential to reduce disease activity. Moreover, VDR regulates functions of T cells and Paneth cells and modulates release of antimicrobial peptides in gut microbiota-host interactions. Meanwhile, beneficial microbial metabolites, e.g., butyrate, upregulate the VDR signaling. In this review, we summarize the clinical progress and mechanism studies on VitD/VDR related to gut microbiota modulation in IBD. We also discuss epigenetics in IBD and the probiotic regulation of VDR. Furthermore, we discuss the existing challenges and future directions. There is a lack of well-designed clinical trials exploring the appropriate dose and the influence of gender, age, ethnicity, genetics, microbiome, and metabolic disorders in IBD subtypes. To move forward, we need well-designed therapeutic studies to examine whether enhanced vitamin D will restore functions of VDR and microbiome in inhibiting chronic inflammation.
    Keywords:  Crohn’s disease; VDR; antimicrobial peptides (AMP); dysbiosis; epigenetics; inflammation; metabolites; microbiome; micronutrient; nuclear receptor; probiotics; tight junctions; ulcerative colitis; vitamin D
  15. Aging Cell. 2021 Jan 02. e13295
      Ageing profoundly changes our immune system and is thought to be a driving factor in the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious disease in older people. We have previously shown that the impaired immunity to vaccination that occurs in aged individuals is partly attributed to the effect of age on T follicular helper (Tfh) cell formation. In this study, we examined how age intrinsically affects Tfh cell formation in both mice and humans. We show increased formation of Tfh precursors (pre-Tfh) but no associated increase in germinal centre (GC)-Tfh cells in aged mice, suggesting age-driven promotion of only early Tfh cell differentiation. Mechanistically, we show that ageing alters TCR signalling which drives expression of the Notch-associated transcription factor, RBPJ. Genetic or chemical modulation of RBPJ or Notch rescues this age-associated early Tfh cell differentiation, and increased intrinsic Notch activity recapitulates this phenomenon in younger mice. Our data offer mechanistic insight into the age-induced changes in T-cell activation that affects the differentiation and ultimately the function of effector T cells.
    Keywords:  CXCR5; Notch; RBPJ; T follicular helper cells; age
  16. Cell Rep. 2021 Jan 05. pii: S2211-1247(20)31562-X. [Epub ahead of print]34(1): 108573
      Whereas the human fetal immune system is poised to generate immune tolerance and suppress inflammation in utero, an adult-like immune system emerges to orchestrate anti-pathogen immune responses in post-natal life. It has been posited that cells of the adult immune system arise as a discrete ontological "layer" of hematopoietic stem-progenitor cells (HSPCs) and their progeny; evidence supporting this model in humans has, however, been inconclusive. Here, we combine bulk and single-cell transcriptional profiling of lymphoid cells, myeloid cells, and HSPCs from fetal, perinatal, and adult developmental stages to demonstrate that the fetal-to-adult transition occurs progressively along a continuum of maturity-with a substantial degree of inter-individual variation at the time of birth-rather than via a transition between discrete waves. These findings have important implications for the design of strategies for prophylaxis against infection in the newborn and for the use of umbilical cord blood (UCB) in the setting of transplantation.
    Keywords:  developmental stage score; hematopoietic ontogeny; hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells; hematopoietic stem cells; human immune development; monocytes; naive T cells; newborn immune development; scRNA-seq; single-cell RNA sequencing
  17. Nat Immunol. 2021 Jan 04.
      In chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cells comprise memory-like and terminally exhausted subsets. However, little is known about the molecular profile and fate of these two subsets after the elimination of chronic antigen stimulation by direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy. Here, we report a progenitor-progeny relationship between memory-like and terminally exhausted HCV-specific CD8+ T cells via an intermediate subset. Single-cell transcriptomics implicated that memory-like cells are maintained and terminally exhausted cells are lost after DAA-mediated cure, resulting in a memory polarization of the overall HCV-specific CD8+ T cell response. However, an exhausted core signature of memory-like CD8+ T cells was still detectable, including, to a smaller extent, in HCV-specific CD8+ T cells targeting variant epitopes. These results identify a molecular signature of T cell exhaustion that is maintained as a chronic scar in HCV-specific CD8+ T cells even after the cessation of chronic antigen stimulation.
  18. Nat Commun. 2021 01 04. 12(1): 99
      CD4 and CD8 mark helper and cytotoxic T cell lineages, respectively, and serve as coreceptors for MHC-restricted TCR recognition. How coreceptor expression is matched with TCR specificity is central to understanding CD4/CD8 lineage choice, but visualising coreceptor gene activity in individual selection intermediates has been technically challenging. It therefore remains unclear whether the sequence of coreceptor gene expression in selection intermediates follows a stereotypic pattern, or is responsive to signaling. Here we use single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to classify mouse thymocyte selection intermediates by coreceptor gene expression. In the unperturbed thymus, Cd4+Cd8a- selection intermediates appear before Cd4-Cd8a+ selection intermediates, but the timing of these subsets is flexible according to the strength of TCR signals. Our data show that selection intermediates discriminate MHC class prior to the loss of coreceptor expression and suggest a model where signal strength informs the timing of coreceptor gene activity and ultimately CD4/CD8 lineage choice.