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Clin Immunol. 1999 Nov;93(2):132-42.

Immunoglobulin VH gene expression in human aging.

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Department of Biochemistry, Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.

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  • Clin Immunol 2000 Mar;94(3):219.


Immune responses change in aging humans, but it is not known whether there is an age-associated change in the expressed B cell repertoire. We compared Ig VH cDNA libraries from circulating B cells of five elderly and three young human adults. As in young persons, nearly two-thirds of the cDNA clones from older subjects had zero to three V(H) mutations, although there was more individual variation among the elderly. V(H)4 family expression increased in older subjects, both in unmutated and in mutated cDNA clones, whereas V(H)3 family expression predominated in young adults. To test for bias toward activated cells in the cDNA libraries, we studied two older persons by both cDNA library analysis and single-cell RT-PCR. In one subject, more than 85% of VH segments were unmutated by either analysis. In the second, mutated Ig segments were much more frequent in cDNA clones than in consecutive single cells; however, V(H) family usage and high representation of particular genes were similar in both analyses. While aging humans continue to produce naive B cells with unmutated Ig genes, a shift to greater use of the V(H)4 family members and expression of particular genes may reflect changes in selection of developing B cells before affinity maturation toward reactivity with foreign antigen.

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