T cell expression of GPR109A is necessary for metabolic function and alloreactivity
The intestinal microbiota is essential for the fermentation of dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. SCFAs can bind to the G-protein-coupled receptors GPR43 and GPR109A (HCAR2), with varying affinities to promote cellular effects in metabolism or changes in immune function. We explored the role of GPR109A as the main receptor for butyrate in mouse models of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Deletion of GPR109A in allo-HCT recipients did not affect GVHD, but transplantation of T cells from GPR109A knockout (Gpr109a-/-) mice into allo-HCT recipient mice significantly reduced GVHD morbidity and mortality compared to recipients of wild type T cells. Recipients of Gpr109a-/- T cells exhibited less GVHD-associated target organ pathology and decreased proliferation and homing of alloreactive T cells to target tissues. Although Gpr109a-/- T cells did not exhibit immune deficits at steady state, following allo-activation Gpr109a-/- T cells underwent increased apoptosis and had impaired mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, which was reversible through antioxidant treatment with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). In conclusion, we found that GPR109A expression by allo-activated T cells is essential for metabolic homeostasis and expansion, which are necessary features to induce GVHD after allo-HCT.