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J Immunol. 2008 Apr 1;180(7):4465-75.

Impact of post-thymic cellular longevity on the development of age-associated CD4+ T cell defects.

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  • 1Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, NY 12983, USA.


Elderly people are at higher risk for infections due to declining cellular and humoral immune responses. Central to this dysfunction is the reduced responsiveness of the naive CD4(+) T cell compartment. Previous data from our laboratory suggest that although defects in the aged naive CD4(+) T cell response are apparent in recent thymic emigrant populations, additional defects develop during extended post-thymic longevity in the periphery. To further investigate the factors that lead to aging defects, we took advantage of the OT-II TCR-transgenic (Tg) mouse model. We show that because of an apparent superantigen-mediated loss of naive Vbeta5(+) Tg CD4(+) T cells from the periphery of aging OT-II mice, this compartment becomes enriched for cells of reduced post-thymic longevity, resulting in a frequency of recent thymic emigrants in aged mice that is similar to that of young mice. Purification and functional analysis of aged OT-II cells with reduced post-thymic longevity reveal that they have an age-associated decrease in expansion and IL-2 production in response to Ag in vitro. However, the in vivo expansion, IL-2 production, and cognate B cell helper ability of these cells are similar to those of cells from young mice. In contrast, T cells from aged HNT Tg mice demonstrate extended post-thymic longevity and exhibit severe defects in the same in vitro and in vivo models. These data support a correlation between the requirement for increased post-thymic longevity and the development of the most severe naive CD4(+) T cell-aging defects.

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