As sufficient extracellular arginine is crucial for T cell function, depletion of extracellular arginine by elevated arginase 1 (Arg1) activity has emerged as a hallmark immunosuppressive mechanism. However, the potential cell-autonomous roles of arginases in T cells have remained unexplored. Here, we show that the arginase isoform expressed by T cells, the mitochondrial Arg2, is a cell-intrinsic regulator of CD8+ T cell activity. Both germline Arg2 deletion and adoptive transfer of Arg2–/– CD8+ T cells significantly reduced tumor growth in preclinical cancer models by enhancing CD8+ T cell activation, effector function, and persistence. Transcriptomic, proteomic, and high-dimensional flow cytometry characterization revealed a CD8+ T cell–intrinsic role of Arg2 in modulating T cell activation, antitumor cytoxicity, and memory formation, independently of extracellular arginine availability. Furthermore, specific deletion of Arg2 in CD8+ T cells strongly synergized with PD-1 blockade for the control of tumor growth and animal survival. These observations, coupled with the finding that pharmacologic arginase inhibition accelerates activation of ex vivo human T cells, unveil Arg2 as a potentially new therapeutic target for T cell–based cancer immunotherapies.
Adrià-Arnau Martí i Líndez, Isabelle Dunand-Sauthier, Mark Conti, Florian Gobet, Nicolás Núñez, J. Thomas Hannich, Howard Riezman, Roger Geiger, Alessandra Piersigilli, Kerstin Hahn, Sylvain Lemeille, Burkhard Becher, Thibaut De Smedt, Stéphanie Hugues, Walter Reith
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