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Blood. 2014 Aug 28;124(9):1450-9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2014-03-563940. Epub 2014 Jul 18.

Accumulation of 4-1BBL+ B cells in the elderly induces the generation of granzyme-B+ CD8+ T cells with potential antitumor activity.

Author information

  • 1Immunoregulation Section, Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology, Baltimore, MD;
  • 2Department of Immunology, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA;
  • 3Division of Immune Regulation, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA;
  • 4The Nonhuman Primate Core Facility, Translational Gerontology Branch, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, MD;
  • 5Laboratory of Experimental Vaccinology, Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark;
  • 6Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD; and.
  • 7Longitudinal Studies Section, Translational Gerontology Branch, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, MD.


Although the accumulation of highly-differentiated and granzyme B (GrB)-expressing CD8(+)CD28(-) T cells has been associated with aging, the mechanism for their enrichment and contribution to immune function remains poorly understood. Here we report a novel B-cell subset expressing 4-1BBL, which increases with age in humans, rhesus macaques, and mice, and with immune reconstitution after chemotherapy and autologous progenitor cell transplantation. These cells (termed 4BL cells) induce GrB(+)CD8(+) T cells by presenting endogenous antigens and using the 4-1BBL/4-1BB axis. We found that the 4BL cells increase antitumor responses in old mice, which may explain in part the paradox of retarded tumor growth in the elderly. 4BL cell accumulation and its capacity to evoke the generation of GrB(+)CD8(+) T cells can be eliminated by inducing reconstitution of B cells in old mice, suggesting that the age-associated skewed cellular immune responses are reversible. We propose that 4BL cells and the 4-1BBL signaling pathway are useful targets for improved effectiveness of natural antitumor defenses and therapeutic immune manipulations in the elderly.

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