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Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 Sep 15;122(13):1397-411.

Aging impairs intestinal immunity.

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Cell Biology and Aging Section, 151E, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 4150 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


The elderly are characterized by immunosenescence accompanied by high rates of morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases. Despite suggestions that the mucosal immune compartment is relatively unaffected by aging, there are marked deficits in the intestinal mucosal immune responses of old animals and elderly humans. Little is known about the mechanism(s) whereby aging disrupts intestinal immunity. However, several events in the genesis of the intestinal immune response may be perturbed during aging. The first step is the uptake of antigens by specialized epithelial cells (M cells) that overlie the domes of Peyer's patches. We are unaware of any studies on the efficacy of antigen uptake in the intestine as a function of age. The effects of aging on the next step, antigen presentation by dendritic cells and lymphocyte isotype switching, have not been resolved. The third event is the maturation of immunoglobulin A (IgA) immunoblasts and their migration from the Peyer's patches to the intestinal mucosa. Quantitative immunohistochemical analyses suggest that the migration of these putative plasma cells to the intestinal effector site is compromised in old animals. Local antibody production by mature IgA plasma cells in the intestinal mucosa constitutes the fourth step. We recently reported that in vitro IgA antibody secretion by intestinal lamina propria lymphocytes from young and senescent rats is equivalent. The last event is the transport of IgA antibodies across the epithelial cells via receptor-mediated vesicular translocation onto the mucosal surface of the intestine. Receptor-binding assays did not detect age-associated declines in receptor number or binding affinity in either rodent or primate enterocytes as a function of donor age. Efforts to identify the mechanism(s) responsible for the age-related decline in intestinal mucosal immune responsiveness may benefit by focusing on the homing of IgA immunoblasts to the effector site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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