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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1997 Mar;52(2):B93-7.

Cytokine antagonists in aged subjects and their relation with cellular immunity.

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Third Division of Internal Medicine, IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore di Milano, Italy.


Host responses to infectious and inflammatory stimuli are altered with aging. Because cytokines and their antagonists are significant factors in these host responses, the present research on aged subjects was designed to investigate plasma concentrations of the cytokines interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and those of their antagonists IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) and soluble TNF receptor (sTNFr). For this research, 122 apparently healthy aged subjects (79.6 +/- 5.8 yr), 39 aged individuals with documented urinary tract infections (UTIs) (81.6 +/- 6.3 yr), and 100 young controls (39.32 +/- 11.2 yr) were included. Plasma IL-1 beta, TNF alpha, IL-1ra, sTNFr (55 kDa), and neopterin were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay techniques. In subsets of normal aged subjects and UTI patients, we investigated relations between plasma concentrations of cytokine antagonists and IL-2 production by phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The results show that plasma concentrations of both IL-1ra and sTNFr were greater in healthy aged subjects than in young controls. Plasma neopterin, a product of activated monocytes/macrophages, was likewise elevated in the aged. IL-1 and TNF were not detectable in the majority of plasma samples. There was a positive correlation between neopterin concentration and both IL-1ra and sTNFr. There was a significant negative correlation between plasma IL-1ra and IL-2 production by phytohemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell in healthy aged subjects. IL-1ra and sTNFr concentrations were significantly greater in patients with UTI than in the healthy aged subjects. In UTI patients IL-2 production in vitro was lower than in healthy subjects, but there was no significant correlation with IL-1ra in plasma. Therefore, plasma concentrations of cytokine antagonists are increased in plasma of apparently healthy aged subjects. Elevated concentrations of neopterin suggest that this increase can be traced to monocyte activation. The negative correlation between plasma IL-1ra and IL-2 production in vitro suggests that enhancement of this cytokine antagonist can contribute to immunodepression of aging. We propose that unapparent infections in aged subjects cause monocyte activation and release of cytokine antagonists. These cytokine antagonists reduce IL-2 production and the capability of T cells to proliferate, thereby inhibiting responses in the elderly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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