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Age (Dordr). 2011 Sep;33(3):363-76. doi: 10.1007/s11357-010-9191-3. Epub 2010 Oct 16.

Age-associated impaired plasmacytoid dendritic cell functions lead to decreased CD4 and CD8 T cell immunity.

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Division of Basic and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Increased susceptibility to infections, particularly respiratory viral infections, is a hallmark of advancing age. The underlying mechanisms are not well understood, and there is a scarcity of information regarding the contribution of the innate immune system, which is the first line of defense against infections. In the present study, we have investigated the effect of advancing age on plasmacytoid dendritic cell (PDC) function because they are critical in generating a robust antiviral response via the secretion of interferons (IFN). Our results indicate that PDCs from the aged are impaired in their capacity to secrete IFN-I in response to influenza virus and CPG stimulation. Additionally, we observed a severe reduction in the production of IFN-III, which plays an important role in defense against viral infections at respiratory mucosal surfaces. This reduction in IFN-I and IFN-III were a result of age-associated impaired phosphorylation of transcription factor, IRF-7. Furthermore, aged PDCs were observed to be impaired in their capacity to induce perforin and granzyme in CD8 T cells. Comparison of the antigen-presenting capacity of aged PDC with young PDC revealed that PDCs from aged subjects display reduced capacity to induce proliferation and IFN-gamma secretion in CD4 and CD8 T cells as compared with PDCs from young subjects. In summary, our study demonstrates that advancing age has a profound effect on PDC function at multiple levels and may therefore, be responsible for the increased susceptibility to infections in the elderly.

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