Alteration of Tumor Metabolism by CD4+ T Cells Leads to TNF-α-Dependent Intensification of Oxidative Stress and Tumor Cell Death

Tsadik Habtetsion, Zhi-Chun Ding, Wenhu Pi, Tao Li, Chunwan Lu, Tingting Chen, Caixia Xi, Helena Spartz, Kebin Liu, Zhonglin Hao, Nahid F Mivechi, Yuqing Huo, Bruce R. Blazar, David H Munn, Gang Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The inhibitory effects of cancer on T cell metabolism have been well established, but the metabolic impact of immunotherapy on tumor cells is poorly understood. Here, we developed a CD4+ T cell-based adoptive immunotherapy protocol that was curative for mice with implanted colorectal tumors. By conducting metabolic profiling on tumors, we show that adoptive immunotherapy profoundly altered tumor metabolism, resulting in glutathione depletion and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in tumor cells. We further demonstrate that T cell-derived tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) can synergize with chemotherapy to intensify oxidative stress and tumor cell death in an NADPH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate hydrogen) oxidase-dependent manner. Reduction of oxidative stress, by preventing TNF-α-signaling in tumor cells or scavenging ROS, antagonized the therapeutic effects of adoptive immunotherapy. Conversely, provision of pro-oxidants after chemotherapy can partially recapitulate the antitumor effects of T cell transfer. These findings imply that reinforcing tumor oxidative stress represents an important mechanism underlying the efficacy of adoptive immunotherapy. Using a preclinical model of colorectal tumors treated with CD4+ T cell-based adoptive immunotherapy, Habtetsion et al. show that profound metabolic changes occur in tumors before tumor regression. T cells shape tumor metabolism through TNF-α which can synergize with chemotherapy, to increase tumor cell oxidative stress through an NOX-dependent mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-242.e6
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 7 2018


  • CD4+ T cell
  • NADPH oxidase
  • TNF-α
  • adoptive immunotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • glutathione
  • metabolism
  • oxidative stress
  • reactive oxygen species
  • redox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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