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Cell-Intrinsic CD38 Expression Sustains Exhausted CD8+ T Cells by Regulating Their Survival and Metabolism during Chronic Viral Infection

  • DeRogatis, Julia M
  • Neubert, Emily N
  • Viramontes, Karla M
  • Henriquez, Monique L
  • Nicholas, Dequina A
  • Tinoco, Roberto
Publication Date
Apr 27, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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Acute and chronic viral infections result in the differentiation of effector and exhausted T cells with functional and phenotypic differences that dictate whether the infection is cleared or progresses to chronicity. High CD38 expression has been observed on CD8+ T cells across various viral infections and tumors in patients, suggesting an important regulatory function for CD38 on responding T cells. Here, we show that CD38 expression was increased and sustained on exhausted CD8+ T cells following chronic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection, with lower levels observed on T cells from acute LCMV infection. We uncovered a cell-intrinsic role for CD38 expression in regulating the survival of effector and exhausted CD8+ T cells. We observed increased proliferation and function of Cd38-/- CD8+ progenitor exhausted T cells compared to those of wild-type (WT) cells. Furthermore, decreased oxidative phosphorylation and glycolytic potential were observed in Cd38-/- CD8+ T cells during chronic but not acute LCMV infection. Our studies reveal that CD38 has a dual cell-intrinsic function in CD8+ T cells, where it decreases proliferation and function yet supports their survival and metabolism. These findings show that CD38 is not only a marker of T cell activation but also has regulatory functions on effector and exhausted CD8+ T cells. IMPORTANCE Our study shows how CD38 expression is regulated on CD8+ T cells responding during acute and chronic viral infection. We observed higher CD38 levels on CD8+ T cells during chronic viral infection compared to levels during acute viral infection. Deleting CD38 had an important cell-intrinsic function in ensuring the survival of virus-specific CD8+ T cells throughout the course of viral infection. We found defective metabolism in Cd38-/- CD8+ T cells arising during chronic infection and changes in their progenitor T cell phenotype. Our studies revealed a dual cell-intrinsic role for CD38 in limiting proliferation and granzyme B production in virus-specific exhausted T cells while also promoting their survival. These data highlight new avenues for research into the mechanisms through which CD38 regulates the survival and metabolism of CD8+ T cell responses to viral infections.

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