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Age-related differences in polyfunctional T cell responses

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      A reduced number of naïve T cells along with an accumulation of differentiated cell types in aging have been described but little is known about the polyfunctionality of the T cell responses. In this study we compared the individual and polyfunctional expression of IFN-γ, MIP-1α, TNF-α, perforin, and IL-2 by T cell subsets, including the newly described stem cell like memory T cells (T SCM), in response to stimulation with superantigen staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) in older (median age 80, n = 23) versus younger (median age 27; n = 23) adults.


      Older age was associated with a markedly lower frequency of CD8+ naïve T cells (11% vs. 47%; p < 0.0001) and an expansion in memory T cell subsets including central memory (p < 0.05), effector memory and effector T cells (p < 0.001 for both). There was also a decline in CD4+ naïve T cells in older subjects (33% vs. 45%; p = 0.02). There were no differences in frequencies or polyfunctional profiles of T SCM between groups. CD8+ naïve cells in the older group had increased expression of all functional parameters measured compared to the younger subjects and exhibited greater polyfunctionality (p = 0.04). CD4+ naïve T cells in the older group also showed greater polyfunctionality with a TNF-α and IL-2 predominance (p = 0.005). CD8+ effector memory and effector T cells exhibited increased polyfunctionality in the older group compared with younger (p = 0.01 and p = 0.003).


      These data suggest that aging does not have a negative effect on polyfunctionality and therefore this is likely not a major contributor to the immunesenescence described with aging.

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      Most cited references 28

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      HIV nonprogressors preferentially maintain highly functional HIV-specific CD8+ T cells.

      Establishing a CD8(+) T cell-mediated immune correlate of protection in HIV disease is crucial to the development of vaccines designed to generate cell-mediated immunity. Historically, neither the quantity nor breadth of the HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cell response has correlated conclusively with protection. Here, we assess the quality of the HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cell response by measuring 5 CD8(+) T-cell functions (degranulation, IFN-gamma, MIP-1beta, TNF-alpha, and IL-2) simultaneously in chronically HIV-infected individuals and elite nonprogressors. We find that the functional profile of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells in progressors is limited compared to that of nonprogressors, who consistently maintain highly functional CD8(+) T cells. This limited functionality is independent of HLA type and T-cell memory phenotype, is HIV-specific rather than generalized, and is not effectively restored by therapeutic intervention. Whereas the total HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cell frequency did not correlate with viral load, the frequency and proportion of the HIV-specific T-cell response with highest functionality inversely correlated with viral load in the progressors. Thus, rather than quantity or phenotype, the quality of the CD8(+) T-cell functional response serves as an immune correlate of HIV disease progression and a potential qualifying factor for evaluation of HIV vaccine efficacy.
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        Superior control of HIV-1 replication by CD8+ T cells is reflected by their avidity, polyfunctionality, and clonal turnover

        The key attributes of CD8+ T cell protective immunity in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection remain unclear. We report that CD8+ T cell responses specific for Gag and, in particular, the immunodominant p24 epitope KK10 correlate with control of HIV-1 replication in human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)–B27 patients. To understand further the nature of CD8+ T cell–mediated antiviral efficacy, we performed a comprehensive study of CD8+ T cells specific for the HLA-B27–restricted epitope KK10 in chronic HIV-1 infection based on the use of multiparametric flow cytometry together with molecular clonotypic analysis and viral sequencing. We show that B27-KK10–specific CD8+ T cells are characterized by polyfunctional capabilities, increased clonal turnover, and superior functional avidity. Such attributes are interlinked and constitute the basis for effective control of HIV-1 replication. These data on the features of effective CD8+ T cells in HIV infection may aid in the development of successful T cell vaccines.
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          Cytotoxic T-cell immunity to influenza.

          In a study designed to determine whether cytotoxic T lymphocytes contribute to immunity against influenza virus infection, we inoculated 63 volunteers intranasally with live unattenuated influenza A/Munich/1/79 virus. Over the next seven days clinical observations were made, and the amount of virus shed was measured. The protective effects of preinfection serum antibody and of cytotoxic T-cell immunity against influenza A virus were assessed for each participant. All subjects with demonstrable T-cell responses cleared virus effectively. This response was observed in volunteers in all age groups, including those born after 1956, who did not have specific antibody and hence had probably not been exposed to this subtype of influenza A virus before. Cytotoxic T cells show cross-reactivity in their recognition of the different subtypes of influenza A virus, in contrast to the antibody response that is specific for each virus subtype. We conclude that cytotoxic T cells play a part in recovery from influenza virus infection.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Geriatric Research Center Clinical Core (GRECC), Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, 10701 East Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA
            [2 ]Department of Microbiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA
            [3 ]Division of Infectious Diseases, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, 10900 Euclid Ave, BRB 1022, Cleveland, Ohio, 44106-4684, USA
            Immun Ageing
            Immun Ageing
            Immunity & Ageing : I & A
            BioMed Central
            23 October 2014
            : 11
            : 14
            25512758 4265991 1742-4933-11-14 10.1186/1742-4933-11-14
            Copyright © 2014 Van Epps et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



            immunesenescence, aging, t cells, polyfunctionality


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