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. 2006 May;24(5):495-9.
doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2006.05.001.

Aging of the Immune System: How Much Can the Adaptive Immune System Adapt?

Free PMC article

Aging of the Immune System: How Much Can the Adaptive Immune System Adapt?

Nan-Ping Weng. Immunity. .
Free PMC article


The competency of the adaptive immune function decreases with age, primarily because of the decline in production of naive lymphocytes in the bone marrow and thymus as well as the expansion of incompetent memory lymphocytes. Here I discuss the recent progress on age-associated changes in lymphocytes and their effect on the adaptive immune system.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Age-Associated Changes of Lymphocytes at the Cellular Level
Naïve lymphocytes in young human adults have an enormously diverse antigen-recognition repertoire. A gradual decline in the production of naïve lymphocytes after puberty and a decrease in the diversity of the antigen-recognition repertoire occur during aging (Franceschi and Cossarizza, 1995)(Goronzy and Weyand, 2005). An immunosenescent state in the elderly is defined by a markedly decreased population of naïve lymphocytes and an oligoclonally expanded population of memory lymphocytes along with a reduced antigen recognition (Goronzy and Weyand, 2005).
Figure 2
Figure 2. Age-Associated Changes of Lymphocytes at the Molecular Level
Individual lymphocytes of various ages exist at any stage of life as a reflection of the generation of newly matured T cells, as well as repeated stimulation and proliferation of existing T cells. For human CD8+ T cells, young cells express CD28, whereas aged cells lose expression of CD28 along with multiple changes in gene expression. Gain and loss of expression of selected genes in young to aged cells is shown. Genes are grouped based on the physical location from cell surface to cytosol to nucleus. In addition to changes in gene expression, there is a decrease in the length of telomeres at the ends of chromosomes from young cells to aged cells as a result of cell divisions. Adapted from (Fann et al., 2005).

Comment in

  • Aging and innate immunity.
    Solana R, Pawelec G, Tarazona R. Solana R, et al. Immunity. 2006 May;24(5):491-4. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2006.05.003. Immunity. 2006. PMID: 16713963

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