The influence of age and gender on the immune system: a longitudinal study in Labrador Retriever dogs

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2001 Sep 28;82(1-2):57-71. doi: 10.1016/s0165-2427(01)00336-1.


While aging studies employing a cross-sectional design have been informative in documenting many age-related alterations in immune function between different age cohorts within a population, longitudinal studies are invaluable for verifying changes at the level of the individual and for defining the precise periods of life during which particular changes occur. In the present study, a battery of immunological parameters were evaluated in a group of Labrador Retrievers as part of a comprehensive longitudinal aging study. Twenty-three dogs (14 females, 9 males; from 4 to 11 years of age) were evaluated annually for total WBC counts, lymphocyte subset distributions, natural killer cell activity and neutrophil phagocytic activity, and biannually for lymphoproliferative activity. An age-related decline in absolute numbers of lymphocytes, T-cells, CD4-cells and CD8-cells was observed in both genders. The distribution of lymphocyte subsets shifted with age, most dramatically in the females; percentages of B-cells declined while those of T-cells increased. Changes in percentages of CD4- and CD8-cells over the 8-year period were not dramatic; in females, percentages of CD8-cells increased significantly in early- to mid-life and then stabilized. Lymphoproliferative responses to mitogens declined over time in both genders. Males demonstrated higher levels of NK cytolytic activity than females; a marginal decline in activity with age was observed. No significant age-related changes in the phagocytic capacity of PMN were observed. These longitudinal findings help to discriminate between those immune parameters which change most dramatically in early-life versus those which either change more dramatically later in life or change gradually over the entire span of life. In addition they identify significant gender differences in several parameters and corroborate our previously published cross-sectional aging data in the same species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Dogs / immunology*
  • Female
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocyte Subsets
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Sex Factors