Aging is a complex process associated with physiological changes in numerous organ systems. In particular, aging of the immune system is characterized by progressive dysregulation of immune responses, resulting in increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, impaired vaccination efficacy and systemic low-grade chronic inflammation. Increasing evidence suggest that intracellular zinc homeostasis, regulated by zinc transporter expression, is critically involved in the signaling and activation of immune cells. We hypothesize that epigenetic alterations and nutritional deficits associated with aging may lead to zinc transporter dysregulation, resulting in decreases in cellular zinc levels and enhanced inflammation with age. The goal of this study was to examine the contribution of age-related zinc deficiency and zinc transporter dysregulation on the inflammatory response in immune cells. The effects of zinc deficiency and age on the induction of inflammatory responses were determined using an in vitro cell culture system and an aged mouse model. We showed that zinc deficiency, particularly the reduction in intracellular zinc in immune cells, was associated with increased inflammation with age. Furthermore, reduced Zip 6 expression enhanced proinflammatory response, and age-specific Zip 6 dysregulation correlated with an increase in Zip 6 promoter methylation. Furthermore, restoring zinc status via dietary supplementation reduced aged-associated inflammation. Our data suggested that age-related epigenetic dysregulation in zinc transporter expression may influence cellular zinc levels and contribute to increased susceptibility to inflammation with age.
Published by Elsevier Inc.