The elderly are at much higher risk for developing pneumonia than younger individuals. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death and is the third most common reason for hospitalization in the elderly. One reason that elderly people may be more susceptible to pneumonia is a breakdown in the lung's first line of defense, mucociliary clearance. Cilia beat in a coordinated manner to propel out invading microorganisms and particles. Ciliary beat frequency (CBF) is known to slow with aging, however, little is known about the mechanism(s) involved. We compared the CBF in BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice aged 2, 12, and 24 mo and found that CBF diminishes with age. Cilia in the mice at age 12 and 24 mo retained their ability to be stimulated by the β2 agonist procaterol. To help determine the mechanism of ciliary slowing, we measured protein kinase C alpha and epsilon (PKCα and PKCε) activity. There were no activity differences in PKCα between the mice aged 2, 12, or 24 mo. However, we demonstrated a significantly higher PKCε activity in the mice at 12 and 24 mo than the in the mice 2 mo of age. The increase in activity is likely due to a nearly threefold increase in PKCε protein in the lung during aging. To strengthen the connection between activation of PKCε and ciliary slowing, we treated tracheas of mice at 2 mo with the PKCε agonist 8-[2-(2-pentylcyclopropylmethyl)-cyclopropyl]-octanoic acid (DCP-LA). We noted a similar decrease in baseline CBF, and the cilia remained sensitive to stimulation with β2 agonists. The mechanisms for the slowing of baseline CBF have not been previously determined. In this mouse model of aging we were able to show that decreases in CBF are related to an increase in PKCε activity.
Keywords: DCP-LA; PKC epsilon; Sisson-Ammons video analysis (SAVA), lung; elderly; innate immunity; pneumonia; β2 agonists.