CD4+ T cells regulate humoral and cell-mediated immune responses, which are progressively impaired in aging, resulting in susceptibility to infections and cancer. Dendritic cells (DCs) are major activators of T cells, providing signals that drive their expansion and differentiation. In this study, we asked if decreased CD4+ T cell responses were influenced by the age of DCs rather than being exclusively due to T cell defects. Old T cells transferred to young recipients expanded and differentiated similarly to young T cells. However, aged recipients were poor stimulators of both old and young T cells, which failed to acquire CD44 expression and produce interferon gamma (IFN-γ). DCs in aged hosts expressed fewer MHC-peptide complexes. The CD86 expression in the DCs of both hosts was similar; however, CD40 levels were reduced in old DCs. Finally, old DCs failed to produce inflammatory cytokines in response to LPS. Our results indicate that the impairment of aged CD4+ T cell function is intimately related to multiple alterations in aged DCs, rather than being caused solely by intrinsic T cell defects, suggesting that the function of aged T cells may be partially rescued in vivo when appropriate stimulation is applied. These findings are relevant to vaccination design for elderly populations.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.