Aging beyond menopause selectively decreases CD8+ T cell numbers but enhances cytotoxic activity in the human endometrium

Immun Ageing. 2022 Nov 12;19(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s12979-022-00312-w.


Background: Regulation of endometrial (EM) CD8+ T cells, which provide protection through cell-mediated cytotoxicity, is essential for successful reproduction, and protection against sexually transmitted infections and potential tumors. We have previously demonstrated that EM CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity is suppressed directly and indirectly by sex hormones and enhanced after menopause. What remains unclear is whether CD8+ T cell protection and the contribution of tissue-resident (CD103+) and non-resident (CD103-) T cell populations in the EM change as women age following menopause.

Results: Using hysterectomy EM tissues, we found that EM CD8+ T cell numbers declined significantly in the years following menopause. Despite an overall decline in CD8+ T cells, cytotoxic activity per cell for both CD103- and CD103 + CD8+ T cells increased with age. Investigation of the underlying mechanisms responsible for cytotoxicity indicated that the percentage of total granzyme A and granzyme B positive CD8+ T cells, but not perforin, increased significantly after menopause and remained high and constant as women aged. Additionally, baseline TNFα production by EM CD8+ T cells increased significantly in the years following menopause, and estradiol suppressed TNFα secretion. Moreover, in response to PMA activation, TNFα and IFNγ were significantly up-regulated, and CD103-CD8+ T cells up-regulation of TNFα, IFNγ and IL-6 increased as women aged.

Conclusions: Understanding the underlying factors involved in regulating cell-mediated protection of the EM by CD8+ T cells will contribute to the foundation of information essential for developing therapeutic tools to protect women against gynecological cancers and infections as they age.

Keywords: Aging; CD8+ T cells; Cytotoxic activity; Endometrium; Menopause.