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T cells are an important component of the body’s immune system. As ERIKA PEARCE explains, there are several types of T cells which form consecutively during the immune response and serve different purposes. Effector T cells combat pathogens from infections or tumors while memory T cells provide protective immunity to prevent re-infection or reoccurring cancer. The research presented in this video investigates how the metabolism of the T cells influences the development of effector and memory T cells by blending in vitro and in vivo approaches.
The findings show that the morphology of the mitochondria determines the ability of different types of T cells to perform their functions. Furthermore, the researchers were able to modify the mitochondria in a way that the resulting T cells would provide a better immunity against cancer. These insights open up new possibilities to alter immune cell function and thus might lead to improved immunotherapy.


Erika Pearce is Director and Senior Group Leader at the Department of Immunometabolism of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany. Her research strives to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms related to T cells and the immune response. She currently focuses on the role of metabolism in regulating memory T cell development and effector T cell function.
Pearce also has editorial responsibilities at a number of renowned scientific journals including Science, Nature and Cell. In 2014, she received the “Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award” of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.


Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg is an interdisciplinary research institution that conducts basic research in two key areas of modern biology.

Immunobiology is concerned with the ways multicellular organisms defend themselves against pathogens. We study the evolutionary origins and the development of lymphoid organs and immune effector cells, the function of antigen receptors, and the genetic basis of host-pathogen interactions. This information underpins efforts to better diagnose and treat immunodeficiency and inflammatory diseases.

Epigenetics is the study of inheritable traits that are not caused by changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms are crucial for the organization and utilization of our genetic information. Since the susceptibility to diseases can be promoted by epigenetic dysfunction, epigenetic research has far-reaching implications for diagnosis and therapy of human disease.

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Original publication

Mitochondrial Dynamics Controls T Cell Fate Through Metabolic Programming

others, Chang Chih-Hao, Qiu Jing, O’Sullivan David, Buck Michael D., Curtis Jonathan D., van der Windt Gerritje J. W., Geltink Ramon I. Klein, Sanin David E., Kretz Oliver, Braas Daniel and Pearce Erika
Published in 2016

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T Cell Metabolism Drives Immunity

O’Sullivan David, Buck Michael D. and Pearce Erika L.
Journal of Experimental Medicine
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Fueling Immunity: Insights Into Metabolism and Lymphocyte Function

Chang Chih-Hao, Pearce Erika L., Poffenberger Maya C. and Jones Russell G.
Published in 2013

Targeting T Cell Metabolism for Therapy

Pearce Erika L. and O'Sullivan David
Trends in immunology
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Emerging Concepts of T Cell Metabolism as a Target of Immunotherapy

Chang Chih-Hao and Pearce Erika L.
Nature immunology
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Immunometabolism Governs Dendritic Cell and Macrophage Function

Pearce Edward J. and O’Neill Luke A. J.
Journal of Experimental Medicine
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A Guide to Immunometabolism for Immunologists

O'Neill Luke A. J., Kishton Rigel J. and Rathmell Jeff
Nature Reviews Immunology
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