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Eur J Immunol. 1991 Nov;21(11):2761-5.

Correlation of lymphocyte lipid composition membrane microviscosity and mitogen response in the aged.

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Institute for General and Experimental Pathology, University of Innsbruck, Medical School, Austria.


Healthy aged and young blood donors were investigated for the role of membrane lipid composition in the age-related increase in membrane microviscosity and decline of mitogen responsiveness. Membrane microviscosity was shown to correlate positively with membrane cholesterol/phospholipid molar ratios, which were significantly elevated in the elderly. A positive correlation also was confirmed between lymphocyte membrane microviscosity, which was measured using the probe 1,6-diphenyl 1,3,5-hexatriene, and phytohemagglutinin responsiveness of cells from the same donor. Using stepwise regression statistical analysis, the variables age, cholesterol, cholesterol/total phospholipid and phosphatidyl ethanolamine/phosphatidyl choline molar ratios were all shown to have a significant positive influence on membrane microviscosity, whereas total phospholipids had a negative effect. No statistically significant difference was seen in content of any single saturated or unsaturated fatty acid between young and old donors. After pooling, however, the proportion of all unsaturated fatty acids was significantly higher in cells from the elderly as a consequence of an increase of n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Changes in lipid composition and physical properties of lymphocyte plasma membranes may, therefore, be responsible (at least partially) for the diminution of immune reactivity in old age.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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