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Int Immunol. 1998 Jul;10(7):981-9.

Age-dependent decreases of NK cell phosphoinositide turnover during spontaneous but not Fc-mediated cytolytic activity.

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Laboratorio di Immunologia e Genetica, Istituto di Ricerca Codivilla-Putti, IOR, Bologna, Italy.


The progressive increase in the number of peripheral NK cells found in the elderly does not correlate with a corresponding increase in lytic activity. On the contrary, a decreased function of circulating NK cells purified from old subjects was observed on a per cell basis. Most of the studies on NK cells have focused on late events such as lytic activity. In view of this, little is currently known about the modification of the early signalling pathways of NK cells in elderly people. This study investigated whether the modification of NK lytic activity could be related to differences in the metabolic pattern of activation of these cells in the elderly. NK cells were negatively purified by immunomagnetic depletion from the peripheral blood of selected old and young healthy subjects. Hydrolysis of inositol phospholipids was measured following incubation with K562 target cells and/or CD16 mAb for different times. Our data show that there is a pronounced age-related decrease in the ability to generate total inositol monophosphates and, particularly, inositol trisphosphates by NK cells following K562 stimulation (spontaneous cytolytic activity) together with an attenuated and delayed hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate, while phosphoinositide turnover is preserved following Fc triggering (antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity). These results confirm that, also in old subjects, different biochemical pathways of activation are involved in NK cells when target or antibody-mediated triggering occurs and may aid the development of experimental and therapeutic strategies to counteract declines in cell mediated immune functions associated to advancing age.

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