Different contribution of EBV and CMV infections in very long-term carriers to age-related alterations of CD8+ T cells

Exp Gerontol. 2004 Aug;39(8):1233-43. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2004.04.004.


Aging is accompanied by a complex dynamics of CD8+ T cell subsets whose origin is unclear. To evaluate the impact of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) chronic infections on CD8+ T cells in far advanced age, we studied CD8+ T cells frequencies and phenotype in nonagenarians and centenarians by HLA-A*0201- and HLA-B*0702-tetramers incorporating epitopes specific of both viruses along with viral replication. The results demonstrate that EBV and CMV infections induce quantitatively and qualitatively different CD8+ T-cell responses in advanced aging. The frequency and absolute number of CD8+ T cells specific for one lytic and two latent EBV-epitopes, were relatively low and mostly included within CD8+ CD28+ cells. By contrast, CMV infection was characterized by highly variable numbers of CD8+ T cells specific for two differently restricted CMV-epitopes that, in some subjects, were strikingly expanded. Moreover, the great majority of anti-CMV CD8+ T cells did not bear CD28 antigen. Notwithstanding the expansion of CMV-specific CD8+ lymphocytes, CMV-DNA detection in blood samples was invariably negative. Altogether, we suggest that CMV, but not EBV, can sustain chronic activation of the HLA-class I restricted effector arm in elderly that might have detrimental effects on age-associated diseases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / immunology*
  • CD28 Antigens / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus* / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human* / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / virology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / virology


  • CD28 Antigens
  • DNA, Viral
  • Epitopes
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I