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Immun Ageing. 2008 Feb 11;5:1. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-5-1.

Differential effects of age on circulating and splenic leukocyte populations in C57BL/6 and BALB/c male mice.

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Department of Basic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA.



Despite several reports on age-related phenotypic changes of the immune system's cells, studies that use a multipoint age comparison between the specific and innate immune cell populations of prototypical Th1- and Th2-type polarized mouse strains are still lacking.


Using a multipoint age comparison approach, cells from the two major immune system compartments, peripheral blood and spleen, and flow cytometry analysis, we found several principal differences in T cell and professional antigen presenting cell (APC) populations originating from a prototypical T helper (Th) 1 mouse strain, C57BL/6, and a prototypical Th2 strain, BALB/c. For example, regardless of age, there were strain differences in both peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and spleens in the proportion of CD4+ (higher in the BALB/c strain), CD8+ T cells and CD11b+/CD11c+ APC (greater in C57BL/6 mice). Other differences were present only in PBMC (MHC class II + and CD19+ were greater in C57BL/6 mice) or differences were evident in the spleens but not in circulation (CD3+ T cells were greater in C57BL/6 mice). There were populations of cells that increased with age in PBMC and spleens of both strains (MHC class II+), decreased in the periphery and spleens of both strains (CD11b+) or did not change in the PBMC and spleens of both strains (CD8+). We also found strain and age differences in the distribution of naïve and memory/activated splenic T cells, e.g., BALB/c mice had more memory/activated and less naive CD8+ and CD4+ T cells and the C57BL/6 mice.


Our data provide important information on the principal differences, within the context of age, in T cell and professional APC populations between the prototypical Th1 mouse strain C57BL/6 and the prototypical Th2 strain BALB/c. Although the age-related changes that occur may be rather subtle, they may be very relevant in conditions of disease and stress. Importantly, our data indicate that age and strain should be considered in concert in the selection of appropriate mouse models for immunological research.

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