Follicular helper T (TFH) cells are essential for inducing germinal center (GC) reactions to mediate humoral adaptive immunity in tumors, but the mechanisms underlying TFH cell differentiation remain unclear. Here, we found that the metabolism sensor sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) is critical for TFH cell differentiation and GC formation during tumor and viral infection. SIRT3 deficiency in CD4+ T cells intrinsically enhanced TFH cell differentiation and GC reactions during tumor and virus infection. Mechanistically, damaged oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) compensatively triggered the NAD+-glycolysis pathway to provide a cellular energy supply, which was necessary for SIRT3 deficiency-induced TFH cell differentiation. Blocking NAD+ synthesis–glycolysis signaling or recovering OXPHOS activities reversed the TFH cell differentiation induced by SIRT3 deficiency. Moreover, the mTOR and HIF1α signaling axis was found to be responsible for TFH cell differentiation induced by SIRT3 deficiency. HIF1α directly interacted with and regulated the activity of the transcription factor Bcl-6. Thus, our findings identify a cellular energy compensatory mechanism, regulated by the mitochondrial sensor SIRT3, that triggers NAD+-dependent glycolysis during mitochondrial OXPHOS injuries and a mTOR–HIF1α–Bcl-6 pathway to reprogram TFH cell differentiation. These data have implications for future cancer immunotherapy research targeting SIRT3 in T cells.

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