First published December 12, 2019 - More info
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex disease with no known cause or mechanism. There is an increasing appreciation for the role of immune and metabolic dysfunction in the disease. ME/CFS has historically presented in outbreaks, often has a flu-like onset, and results in inflammatory symptoms. Patients suffer from severe fatigue and post-exertional malaise. There is little known about the metabolism of specific immune cells in ME/CFS patients. To investigate immune metabolism in ME/CFS, we isolated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from 53 ME/CFS patients and 45 healthy controls. We analyzed glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration in resting and activated T cells, along with markers related to cellular metabolism, and plasma cytokines. We found that ME/CFS CD8+ T cells have reduced mitochondrial membrane potential compared to healthy controls. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from ME/CFS patients had reduced glycolysis at rest, while CD8+ T cells also had reduced glycolysis following activation. ME/CFS patients had significant correlations between measures of T cell metabolism and plasma cytokine abundance that differed from healthy control subjects. Our data indicate that patients have impaired T cell metabolism consistent with ongoing immune alterations in ME/CFS that may illuminate the mechanism behind this disease.