Antioxidants N-Acetylcysteine and Vitamin C Improve T Cell Commitment to Memory and Long-Term Maintenance of Immunological Memory in Old Mice

Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Nov 19;9(11):1152. doi: 10.3390/antiox9111152.


Aging is characterized by reduced immune responses, a process known as immunosenescence. Shortly after their generation, antigen-experienced adaptive immune cells, such as CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, migrate into the bone marrow (BM), in which they can be maintained for long periods of time within survival niches. Interestingly, we recently observed how oxidative stress may negatively support the maintenance of immunological memory in the BM in old age. To assess whether the generation and maintenance of immunological memory could be improved by scavenging oxygen radicals, we vaccinated 18-months (old) and 3-weeks (young) mice with alum-OVA, in the presence/absence of antioxidants vitamin C (Vc) and/or N-acetylcysteine (NAC). To monitor the phenotype of the immune cell population, blood was withdrawn at several time-points, and BM and spleen were harvested 91 days after the first alum-OVA dose. Only in old mice, memory T cell commitment was boosted with some antioxidant treatments. In addition, oxidative stress and the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules decreased in old mice. Finally, changes in the phenotype of dendritic cells, important regulators of T cell activation, were additionally observed. Taken together, our data show that the generation and maintenance of memory T cells in old age may be improved by targeting oxidative stress.

Keywords: NAC; T cells; aging; antioxidants; immunosenescence; vaccination; vitamin C.