Protein synthesis supports robust immune responses. Nutrient competition and global cell stressors in the tumor microenvironment (TME) may impact protein translation in T cells and antitumor immunity. Using human and mouse tumors, we demonstrated here that protein translation in T cells is repressed in solid tumors. Reduced glucose availability to T cells in the TME led to activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) element eIF2α (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha). Genetic mouse models revealed that translation attenuation mediated by activated p-eIF2α undermines the ability of T cells to suppress tumor growth. Reprograming T-cell metabolism was able to alleviate p-eIF2α accumulation and translational attenuation in the TME, allowing for sustained protein translation. Metabolic and pharmacological approaches showed that proteasome activity mitigates induction of p-eIF2α to support optimal antitumor T-cell function, protecting from translation attenuation and enabling prolonged cytokine synthesis in solid tumors. Together, these data identify a new therapeutic avenue to fuel the efficacy of tumor immunotherapy.


Proteasome function is a necessary cellular component for endowing T cells with tumor killing capacity by mitigating translation attenuation resulting from the unfolded protein response induced by stress in the tumor microenvironment.

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