Aging and cytomegalovirus infection differentially and jointly affect distinct circulating T cell subsets in humans

J Immunol. 2014 Mar 1;192(5):2143-55. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1301721. Epub 2014 Feb 5.


The impact of intrinsic aging upon human peripheral blood T cell subsets remains incompletely quantified and understood. This impact must be distinguished from the influence of latent persistent microorganisms, particularly CMV, which has been associated with age-related changes in the T cell pool. In a cross-sectional cohort of 152 CMV-negative individuals, aged 21-101 y, we found that aging correlated strictly to an absolute loss of naive CD8, but not CD4, T cells but, contrary to many reports, did not lead to an increase in memory T cell numbers. The loss of naive CD8 T cells was not altered by CMV in 239 subjects (range 21-96 y), but the decline in CD4(+) naive cells showed significance in CMV(+) individuals. These individuals also exhibited an absolute increase in the effector/effector memory CD4(+) and CD8(+) cells with age. That increase was seen mainly, if not exclusively, in older subjects with elevated anti-CMV Ab titers, suggesting that efficacy of viral control over time may determine the magnitude of CMV impact upon T cell memory, and perhaps upon immune defense. These findings provide important new insights into the age-related changes in the peripheral blood pool of older adults, demonstrating that aging and CMV exert both distinct and joint influence upon blood T cell homeostasis in humans.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood
  • Aging / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / blood
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged