Erika L. Pearce, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pathology and Immunology
BJCIH, Room 8215, Suite B/8210
314-286-2549 (lab)


Our research focuses on the underlying molecular mechanisms that control the development of CD8 T cell memory, with a particular emphasis on how metabolism governs this process. Our previous work revealed that the promotion of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (FAO), a pathway of lipid catabolism that fuels the TCA cycle, in CD8 T cells during an immune response is crucial to their development into long-lived memory T cells. More recently we have shown that CD8 memory T cells, but not effector CD8 effector T cells, possess substantial mitochondrial spare respiratory capacity (SRC). SRC is the extra capacity available in cells to produce energy in response to increased stress or work and as such is associated with cellular survival. We found that enhanced SRC was linked to greater mitochondrial mass in memory T cells. Furthermore, we demonstrated that growth factor cytokines can regulate SRC and oxidative metabolism by promoting mitochondrial biogenesis and the expression of key metabolic enzymes that control mitochondrial FAO. Our findings highlight how cytokines control the bioenergetic stability of CD8 memory T cells after infection by regulating mitochondrial metabolism. Currently we have projects in the laboratory investigating T cell bioenergetics, mitochondrial dynamics in T cells during infection, T cell substrate utilization, and the metabolic manipulation of T cells for enhancing the efficacy of immunotherapeutic and prophylactic vaccines.

Selected Publications

  1. van der Windt GJ, Everts B, Chang CH, Curtis JD, Freitas TC, Amiel E, Pearce EJ, Pearce EL.. Mitochondrial respiratory capacity is a critical regulator of CD8(+) T cell memory development.. Immunity. 2012 Jan 27;36(1):68-78. Epub 2011 Dec 28., 2012 Abstract
  2. Cejas PJ, Walsh MC, Pearce EL, Han D, Harms GM, Artis D, Turka LA, Choi Y.. TRAF6 inhibits Th17 differentiation and TGF-beta-mediated suppression of IL-2.. Blood. 2010 Jun 10;115(23):4750-7. Epub 2010 Mar 29., 2010 Abstract
  3. Pearce EL.. Metabolism in T cell activation and differentiation.. Curr Opin Immunol. 2010 Jun;22(3):314-20. Epub 2010 Feb 26. Review., 2010 Abstract
  4. Pearce EL, Walsh MC, Cejas PJ, Harms GM, Shen H, Wang LS, Jones RG, Choi Y.. Enhancing CD8 T-cell memory by modulating fatty acid metabolism.. Nature. 2009 Jul 2;460(7251):103-7. Epub 2009 Jun 3., 2009 Abstract
  5. King CG, Buckler JL, Kobayashi T, Hannah JR, Bassett G, Kim T, Pearce EL, Kim GG, Turka LA, Choi Y.. Cutting edge: requirement for TRAF6 in the induction of T cell anergy.. J Immunol. 2008 Jan 1;180(1):34-8., 2008 Abstract
  6. Pearce EL, Shen H.. Generation of CD8 T cell memory is regulated by IL-12.. J Immunol. 2007 Aug 15;179(4):2074-81., 2007 Abstract
  7. Pearce EL, Shen H.. Making sense of inflammation, epigenetics, and memory CD8+ T-cell differentiation in the context of infection.. Immunol Rev. 2006 Jun;211:197-202. Review., 2006 Abstract
  8. Pearce EL, Mullen AC, Martins GA, Krawczyk CM, Hutchins AS, Zediak VP, Banica M, DiCioccio CB, Gross DA, Mao CA, Shen H, Cereb N, Yang SY, Lindsten T, Rossant J, Hunter CA, Reiner SL.. Control of effector CD8+ T cell function by the transcription factor Eomesodermin.. Science. 2003 Nov 7;302(5647):1041-3., 2003 Abstract

DBBS Graduate Program Affiliation

Department of Pathology and Immunology
Campus Box 8118
660 South Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110
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