Are Regulatory T-cells Linked With Aging?

Exp Gerontol. 2006 Apr;41(4):339-45. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2006.01.008. Epub 2006 Mar 3.


There is increasing evidence for an active and 'dominant' tolerance mediated by regulatory T-cells. Out of these CD4+ 'naturally occurring' regulatory T-cells (TREGs) are currently the main research focus in this field. TREGs exert their suppressive function in vitro in a contact-dependent manner and preferentially express high levels of CD25 and the forkhead and winged-helix family transcription factor forkhead box P3 (FOXP3). Age-related increment of the prevalences of CD4+ CD25(hi) TREGs were described controversially, and whether such changes explain immune dysfunction in the elderly is still unclear. During aging thymic TREG output may decrease with significant loss of thymic capacity to generate new T-cells, and TREG homeostasis has been shown to be sustained by alternative pathways like peripheral generation of TREGs. An imbalance of TREG homeostasis would then predispose to immune dysfunction in aged individuals explaining their higher risk of immune-mediated diseases, cancer or infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cellular Senescence / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Immunophenotyping
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / physiology*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology