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Phenotypic and Functional Changes of Circulating Monocytes in Elderly

  • Lia Ginaldi
  • Massimo De Martinis
Living reference work entry

Abstract

Aging is characterized by a decline in immune functions with increased susceptibility to infections, which is associated with inflammation and increased risk of chronic diseases. Aging therefore represents a state of paradox where chronic inflammation is associated with declining immune responses. This peculiar finding, known as inflammaging, is mainly sustained by cells of the innate immunity. Immunosenescence might therefore be regarded as a situation in which the specific immune system deteriorates with age, while the innate immunity is negligibly affected and, in some cases, almost upregulated. The innate immune system is composed of a network of cells including neutrophils, NK cells, monocytes/macrophages, and dendritic cells that mediate the earliest interactions with pathogens. Age-associated defects are observed in the activation of all of these cell types, linked to compromised signal transduction pathways. Moreover, ageing is also characterized by a constitutive proinflammatory environment with persistent low-grade innate immune activation that may augment dysfunctions of these cell types. Thus, immunosenescence in the innate immune system reflect dysregulation, rather than exclusively impaired function. One of the key constituents of the innate immune system is monocytes. Circulating monocytes are important mediators of the inflammatory response, acting as a major source of resident tissue antigen presenting cells and serum cytokines. They represent a number of distinct subpopulations whose functional capacity and relative concentrations are known to change with age. Although the age-related changes in the specific immunity are commonly considered the hallmarks of immunosenescence, the central role of the complex remodeling of first-line defense cells, such as monocytes, is gradually emerging. For example, chemotaxis and phagocytosis, as well as antigen processing and presentation, are depressed, whereas cell activation and the secretion of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1, IL-6, TNF, are markedly increased. Changes in the expression of functionally important cellular receptors on monocyte surface can also contribute to the modification of immune function characteristic of the elderly. Moreover, significant sex-related differences in innate immune function recently emerged; interestingly, there is a differential impact of age on the phenotype, function, and activation of monocyte subsets in men and women, justifying a gender perspective in the study of monocytes in the elderly.

Keywords

Monocytes Macrophages Innate Immunity Ageing 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life, Health, & Environmental SciencesUniversity of L’AquilaL’AquilaItaly

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