In order to better understand the influence of age on innate immune function in horses, blood was collected from twelve adult horses (aged 10-16 years; mean: 13 years) and ten geriatric horses (aged 18-26 years; mean: 21.7 years) for analysis of plasma myeloperoxidase, complete blood counts, and cytokine and receptor expression in response to in vitro stimulation with heat-inactivated Rhodococcus equi, heat-inactivated Escherichia coli, and PMA/ionomycin. Gene expression was measured using RT-PCR for IFNγ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12α, IL-13, IL-17α, TLR2, TLR4, and TNFα. Endocrine function and body weight were measured to assess any potential impacts of ACTH, insulin, or body weight on immune function; none of the horses had pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. The geriatric horse group had lower concentrations of plasma myeloperoxidase (P = 0.0459) and lower absolute monocyte counts (P = 0.0477); however, the difference in monocyte counts was no longer significant after outliers were removed. Additionally, only two significant differences in cytokine/receptor expression in whole blood were observed. Compared with adult horses, the geriatric horses had increased TNFα expression after in vitro stimulation with heat-inactivated R. equi (P = 0.0224) and had decreased IL-17α expression after PMA/ionomycin stimulation when one outlier was excluded (P = 0.0334). These changes may represent a compensatory mechanism by which geriatric horses could ensure adequate immune responses despite potentially dysfunctional neutrophil activity and/or decreased monocyte counts. Aging may influence equine innate immune function, and additional research is warranted to confirm and further explore these findings.
Keywords: Aged; Geriatric; Horse; Immune; Innate.
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