Numerical and functional alterations of circulating gammadelta T lymphocytes in aged people and centenarians

J Leukoc Biol. 2002 Jul;72(1):65-71.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the peripheral representation, in vitro expansion, cytokine production, and cytotoxicity of gammadelta T lymphocytes from 104 healthy subjects ranging in age from 19 to 103 years. We demonstrated that the absolute number of circulating gammadelta(+) T cells was reduced significantly in old people and centenarians in comparison with young subjects as a consequence of the age-related decreased lymphocyte number. The decrease was a result of an age-dependent reduction of Vdelta2 T cells, whereas the absolute number of Vdelta1 T cells was unaffected by age. As a consequence, the Vdelta2/Vdelta1 ratio was inverted in old subjects and centenarians. A higher percentage of gammadelta(+) T cells producing tumor necrosis factor alpha was found in old donors and centenarians, whereas no age-related difference was observed in interferon -gamma production. After a 10-day in vitro expansion, a twofold lower expansion index of gammadelta T cells, and particularly of a Vdelta2, but not of a Vdelta1 subset, was found in old people and centenarians in comparison with young subjects. The cytotoxicity of sorted gammadelta T cells was preserved in old people and centenarians. The alteration of gammadelta T cells could contribute to the age-related derangement of T cell-mediated, adoptive responses and may represent a new characteristic of immunosenescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / analysis*
  • T-Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta