Effect of aging on monocyte phagocytic and inflammatory functions, and on the ex vivo inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide, in horses

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2022 Aug;250:110459. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2022.110459. Epub 2022 Jul 12.


Studies investigating age-related changes in the function of monocytes are currently limited for horses. Thus, the main goal of this study was to determine the effect of aging on monocyte phagocytic capacity and pro-inflammatory cytokine responses to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). A second goal of this work was to examine the effect of aging on the inflammatory cytokine responses to LPS in a whole blood ex vivo model. Seven healthy young adult (4-6 years of age) and seven healthy senior horses (>20 years of age) were enrolled. Phagocytosis of E. coli, and pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNFα) responses to LPS, were measured in monocytes by flow cytometry. Gene expressions of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-18, CCL-5, CCL-2) were measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and whole blood by RT-qPCR post incubation for 2 h or 6 h with a low (0.01 µg/mL) or a high (1 µg/mL) dose of LPS. Two sets of statistical models were applied to compare the age groups, one adjusted, and one unadjusted for the horses' body condition scores (BCS). The percentage of monocytes that phagocytosed E. coli after 2 h of incubation was significantly lower in senior compared to young adult horses in the BCS-adjusted model. In the senior group, the expression of IL-1β in 2 h-0.01 µg/mL LPS-stimulated PBMCs was significantly higher than in the young adult group (BCS-adjusted and unadjusted models). In senior horses, expressions of IL-8 and IL-6 in whole blood samples stimulated for 6 h with 0.01 µg/mL LPS and for 2 h with 1 µg/mL LPS, respectively, were significantly lower than in young adult horses (BCS-adjusted models). The results of this study suggest that the phagocytic function of monocytes, as well as their IL-1β response to LPS may be altered in senior horses. In addition, the whole blood IL-8 and IL-6 gene expression responses to LPS may be insufficient in senior horses. While investigation of the effect of BCS on monocyte functions and whole blood pro-inflammatory LPS-responses was not a major goal of this work, it appears that adiposity may play a role in innate immune cell function, as significant differences between the age groups were often not apparent until the models were adjusted for BCS.

Keywords: Aging; Horse; Inflammation; Innate immunity; Monocyte; Phagocytosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Cytokines
  • Escherichia coli
  • Horses
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides* / pharmacology
  • Monocytes*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha