It is well established that immune responses are diminished in the old. However, we still do not have a clear understanding of what dictates the dysfunction of old T cells at the molecular level. Although microarray analysis has been used to compare young and old T cells, identifying hundreds of genes that are differentially expressed among these populations, it has been difficult to utilize this information to pinpoint which biological pathways truly affect the function of aged T cells. To better define differences between young and old naïve CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, microarray analysis was performed pre- and post-TCR stimulation for 4, 12, 24 and 72 h. Our data indicate that many genes are differentially expressed in the old compared to the young at all five time points. These genes encode proteins involved in multiple cellular functions such as cell growth, cell cycle, cell death, inflammatory response, cell trafficking, etc. Additionally, the information from this microarray analysis allowed us to underline both intrinsic deficiencies and defects in signaling only seen after activation, such as pathways involving T-cell signaling, cytokine production, and Th2 differentiation in old T cells. With the knowledge gained, we can proceed to design strategies to restore the function of old T cells. Therefore, this microarray analysis approach is a powerful and sensitive tool that reveals the extensive changes seen between young and old CD4+ and CD8+ naïve T cells. Evaluation of these differences provides in-depth insight into potential functional and phenotypical differences among these populations.
© 2011 The Authors. Aging Cell © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.