Deep immune phenotyping reveals similarities between aging, Down syndrome, and autoimmunity

Sci Transl Med. 2022 Jan 12;14(627):eabi4888. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abi4888. Epub 2022 Jan 12.


Individuals with Down syndrome show cellular and clinical features of dysregulated aging of the immune system, including a shift from naïve to memory T cells and increased incidence of autoimmunity. However, a quantitative understanding of how various immune compartments change with age in Down syndrome remains lacking. Here, we performed deep immunophenotyping of a cohort of individuals with Down syndrome across the life span, selecting for autoimmunity-free individuals. We simultaneously interrogated age- and sex-matched healthy controls and people with type 1 diabetes as a representative autoimmune disease. We built an analytical software, IMPACD (Iterative Machine-assisted Permutational Analysis of Cytometry Data), that enabled us to rapidly identify many features of immune dysregulation in Down syndrome shared with other autoimmune diseases. We found quantitative and qualitative dysregulation of naïve CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in individuals with Down syndrome and identified interleukin-6 as a candidate driver of some of these changes, thus extending the consideration of immunopathologic cytokines in Down syndrome beyond interferons. We used immune cellular composition to generate three linear models of aging (immune clocks) trained on control participants. All three immune clocks demonstrated advanced immune aging in individuals with Down syndrome. One of these clocks, informed by Down syndrome–relevant biology, also showed advanced immune aging in individuals with type 1 diabetes. Orthologous RNA sequencing–derived immune clocks also demonstrated advanced immune aging in individuals with Down syndrome. Together, our findings demonstrate an approach to studying immune aging in Down syndrome that may have implications in other autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Autoimmune Diseases*
  • Autoimmunity / genetics
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1*
  • Down Syndrome* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping