Vaccine-induced boosting of influenza virus-specific CD4 T cells in younger and aged humans

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 14;8(10):e77164. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077164. eCollection 2013.


Current yearly influenza virus vaccines induce strain-specific neutralizing antibody (NAb) responses providing protective immunity to closely matched viruses. However, these vaccines are often poorly effective in high-risk groups such as the elderly and challenges exist in predicting yearly or emerging pandemic influenza virus strains to include in the vaccines. Thus, there has been considerable emphasis on understanding broadly protective immunological mechanisms for influenza virus. Recent studies have implicated memory CD4 T cells in heterotypic immunity in animal models and in human challenge studies. Here we examined how influenza virus vaccination boosted CD4 T cell responses in younger versus aged humans. Our results demonstrate that while the magnitude of the vaccine-induced CD4 T cell response and number of subjects responding on day 7 did not differ between younger and aged subjects, fewer aged subjects had peak responses on day 14. While CD4 T cell responses were inefficiently boosted against NA, both HA and especially nucleocaspid protein- and matrix-(NP+M) specific responses were robustly boosted. Pre-existing CD4 T cell responses were associated with more robust responses to influenza virus NP+M, but not H1 or H3. Finally pre-existing strain-specific NAb decreased the boosting of CD4 T cell responses. Thus, accumulation of pre-existing influenza virus-specific immunity in the form of NAb and cross-reactive T cells to conserved virus proteins (e.g. NP and M) over a lifetime of exposure to infection and vaccination may influence vaccine-induced CD4 T cell responses in the aged.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Orthomyxoviridae / immunology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Vaccines, Inactivated / immunology
  • Viral Proteins / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Inactivated
  • Viral Proteins