The negative effect of lipid challenge on autophagy inhibits T cell responses

Ignacio Guerrero-Ros, Cristina C. Clement, Cara A. Reynolds, Bindi Patel, Laura Santambrogio, Ana M. Cuervo, Fernando Macian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Obesity is associated with changes in the immune system that significantly hinder its ability to mount efficient immune responses. Previous studies have reported a dysregulation of immune responses caused by lipid challenge; however, the mechanisms underlying that dysregulation are still not completely understood. Autophagy is an essential catabolic process through which cellular components are degraded by the lysosomal machinery. In T cells, autophagy is an actively regulated process necessary to sustain homeostasis and activation. Here, we report that CD4+ T cell responses are inhibited when cells are challenged with increasing concentrations of fatty acids. Furthermore, analysis of T cells from diet-induced obese mice confirms that high lipid load inhibits activation-induced responses in T cells. We have found that autophagy is inhibited in CD4+ T cells exposed in vitro or in vivo to lipid stress, which causes decreased autophagosome formation and degradation. Supporting that inhibition of autophagy caused by high lipid load is a key mechanism that accounts for the effects on T cell function of lipid stress, we found that ATG7 (autophagy-related 7)-deficient T cells, unable to activate autophagy, did not show additional inhibitory effects on their responses to activation when subjected to lipid challenge. Our results indicate, thus, that increased lipid load can dysregulate autophagy and cause defective T cell responses, and suggest that inhibition of autophagy may underlie some of the characteristic obesity-associated defects in the T cell compartment. Abbreviations: ACTB: actin, beta; ATG: autophagy-related; CDKN1B: cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1B; HFD: high-fat diet; IFNG: interferon gamma; IL: interleukin; MAPK1/ERK2: mitogen-activated protein kinase 1; MAPK3/ERK1: mitogen-activated protein kinase 3; MAPK8/JNK: mitogen-activated protein kinase 8; LC3-I: non-conjugated form of MAP1LC3B; LC3-II: phosphatidylethanolamine-conjugated form of MAP1LC3B; MAP1LC3B: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; MS: mass spectrometry; MTOR: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase; NFATC2: nuclear factor of activated T cells, cytoplasmic, calcineurin dependent 2; NLRP3: NLR family, pyrin domain containing 3; OA: oleic acid; PI: propidium iodide; ROS: reactive oxygen species; STAT5A: signal transducer and activator of transcription 5A; TCR: T cell receptor; TH1: T helper cell type 1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-238
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Fatty acid
  • T cell
  • lipid stress
  • macroautophagy
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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