The mechanisms by which regulatory T cells (Tregs) migrate to and function within the hypoxic tumor microenvironment are unclear. Our studies indicate that specific ablation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) in Tregs results in enhanced CD8+ T cell suppression versus wild-type Tregs under hypoxia, due to increased pyruvate import into the mitochondria. Importantly, HIF-1α-deficient Tregs are minimally affected by the inhibition of lipid oxidation, a fuel that is critical for Treg metabolism in tumors. Under hypoxia, HIF-1α directs glucose away from mitochondria, leaving Tregs dependent on fatty acids for mitochondrial metabolism within the hypoxic tumor. Indeed, inhibition of lipid oxidation enhances the survival of mice with glioma. Interestingly, HIF-1α-deficient-Treg mice exhibit significantly enhanced animal survival in a murine model of glioma, due to their stymied migratory capacity, explaining their reduced abundance in tumor-bearing mice. Thus HIF-1α acts as a metabolic switch for Tregs between glycolytic-driven migration and oxidative phosphorylation-driven immunosuppression. Miska et al. demonstrate that regulatory T cell (Treg)-specific depletion of HIF-1α promotes enhanced immune suppression at the cost of migration under hypoxic conditions. Within the hypoxic brain-tumor environment, Tregs are uniquely able to metabolize extracellular free fatty acids to promote their immunosuppressive functionality, which can be targeted in vivo.
- fatty acid oxidation
- oxidative phosphorylation
- regulatory T cell
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)