Age-related deregulation of naive T cell homeostasis in elderly humans
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- Ferrando-Martínez, S., Ruiz-Mateos, E., Hernández, A. et al. AGE (2011) 33: 197. doi:10.1007/s11357-010-9170-8
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Immunosenescence is characterized by phenotypic and functional changes of effector memory T cells. In spite of the well-described senescent defects of these experienced T cells, immune responses to new pathogens are also deeply affected in elderly humans, suggesting that naive T cells could also show age-related defects. It has been reported in both, animal models and humans, alterations of the naive T cell turnover associated to advanced age or low thymic function. However, as far as we know, homeostatic mechanisms involved in the deregulation of naive T cell peripheral dynamics and their consequences are still not well understood. Thus, the aim of our study was to analyze homeostatic parameters of peripheral naive T cells and their relationship with thymic function in young and elderly humans. Our results show that lower naive T cell numbers were associated with a lower thymic function and higher activation and proliferating naive T cell levels. We then analyzed sjTREC numbers and relative telomere length from sorted naive T cells. Our results show that the aberrant activation and proliferation status was related to lower sjTREC numbers (a peripheral proliferation marker) and both, higher CD57 expression levels and shortened telomeres (replicative senescence-related markers). Elderly individuals show a greater contraction of the CD8 naive T cell numbers and all homeostatic alterations were more severe in this compartment. In addition, we found that low functional thymus show a CD4-biased thymocyte production. Taken together, our results suggest a homeostatic deregulation, affecting mostly the naive CD8 T cell subset, leading to the accumulation of age-associated defects in, otherwise, phenotypically naive T cells.