Circulating mucosal-associated invariant T cell levels and their cytokine levels in healthy adults

Exp Gerontol. 2014 Jan;49:47-54. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2013.11.003. Epub 2013 Nov 20.


Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells have been reported to play an antimicrobial role in infectious diseases. However, little is known about age- and gender-related changes in circulating MAIT cell level and function in healthy population. The purposes of this study were to examine the level and cytokine production of circulating MAIT cells and their subsets in healthy adults and to investigate potential relationships between clinical parameters and MAIT cell levels or their subset levels. One hundred thirty-three healthy subjects were enrolled in this study. MAIT cells, their subset, and cytokine levels were measured by flow cytometry. Circulating MAIT cell levels were found to vary widely (0.19% to 21.7%) in the study subjects and to be significantly lower in elderly subjects (age, 61-92 years) than in young subjects (age, 21-40 years) (p<0.0005). No significant difference was found in the circulating MAIT cell levels between male and female subjects. A linear regression analysis revealed that circulating MAIT cell levels declined annually by 3.2% among men and 1.8% among women, respectively. Notably, the proportion of CD4+ MAIT cells increased with age, whereas that of CD8+ MAIT cells decreased with age. In addition, the production of interleukin (IL)-4 by MAIT cells was found to be significantly increased in elderly subjects and the ratio of interferon (IFN)-γ/IL-4 was lower as compared with young subjects, showing a Th1 to Th2 shift in cytokine profile in elderly subjects. Our data suggest that aging is associated with a reduction in circulating MAIT cells, accompanied with alterations in subset composition and cytokine profile.

Keywords: APC; Age; Cytokine; DN; DP; FITC; Gender; Healthy adults; IFN; IL; IM; MAIT cells; MHC; NKT cells; PBMCs; PE-Cy; PMA; Subset; T cell receptor; TCR; TNF; allophycocyanin; double-negative; double-positive; fluorescein isothiocyanate; interferon; interleukin; ionomycin; mAb; major histocompatibility complex; monoclonal antibody; mucosal-associated invariant T cells; natural killer T cells; peripheral blood mononuclear cells; phorbol myristate acetate; phycoerythrin-cyanine; tumor necrosis factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte / blood*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte
  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • invariant chain
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma