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J Immunol. 2004 May 1;172(9):5194-9.

Inflammatory cytokines overcome age-related defects in CD4 T cell responses in vivo.

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Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, NY 12983, USA.


Age-related decreases in immune function are thought to contribute to the reduced efficacy of vaccinations seen in elderly populations. Our previous in vitro studies demonstrated that naive CD4 T cells from aged TCR-transgenic mice proliferate less than young cells and generate poorly functioning effectors due to decreased IL-2 production. In this current study, we show that this age-related defect in CD4 T cell response also occurs in vivo and that it is correlated with reduced NF-kappa B activation. After transfer to young hosts, CD4 T cells from aged transgenic mice proliferate less and produce reduced levels of IL-2 upon immunization with Ag and alum. Introducing a combination of the inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6, or the use of an adjuvant such as CFA that induces these cytokines, markedly enhanced responses of these aged CD4 T cells, so that they proliferated and produced IL-2 similar to young cells. This enhancement is correlated with the enhanced activation of the transcription factor NF-kappa B in aged cells. We suggest that induction of inflammatory cytokines via adjuvants may enhance the efficacy of vaccinations in elderly populations.

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