A cytofluorimetric study of T lymphocyte subsets in rat lymphoid tissues (thymus, lymph nodes) and peripheral blood: A continuous remodelling during the first year of life

M. Capri, D. Quaglino, G. Verzella, D. Monti, M. Bonafè, A. Cossarizza, L. Troiano, L. Zecca, I. Pasquali-Ronchetti, C. Franceschi

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We previously demonstrated that the rat thymus undergoes a progressive remodelling long before the appearance of typical signs of involution [Quaglino, D., Capri, M., Bergamini, G., Euclidi, E., Zecca, L., Franceschi, C., Pasquali Ronchetti, I., 1998. Age-dependent remodelling of rat thymus. Morphological and cytofluorimetric analysis from birth up to one year of age. Eur. J. Cell. Biol. 76, 156-166]. To focus better on the complex remodelling that occurs in the rat immune system during the first year of life, we analysed the phenotype profile of thymocytes, and T lymphocytes from mesenteric lymph nodes and peripheral blood of the same animals by flow cytometry. Two experimental sets were performed simultaneously using the same animal strain, but starting and ending the study at different ages (15 days up to 300 days in the first experimental set, and 90 days up to 360 days of life in the second). In the rat these ages appear to be crucial not only for developmental, maturative and early involutional processes of the thymus, but also of the entire immune system. The main findings were the following: (1) in the thymus, CD8-CD4- cells increased, CD5+αβ TCR- and CD8+CD4+ thymocytes decreased, while the most mature cell subset appeared well preserved with ageing; (2) in the lymph nodes, T helper and T cytotoxic lymphocytes decreased in the most aged animals. Memory/activated CD4+CD45RC- T cells decreased, while naive/resting CD4+CD45RC+ cells increased in the youngest animals and decreased in the oldest. CD8+CD45RC- and CD8+CD45RC+ lymphocytes showed a complex age-dependent trend, and (3) in peripheral blood, minor modifications were evident, such as an age- dependent increase in the αβ TCR+CD25+ cell subset. Some of these changes were related to the developmental process, while others could likely be interpreted as early signs of immunosenescence. The role of these modifications in immune system is discussed within the framework of the remodelling hypothesis of immunosenescence. The age-dependent changes in these three lymphoid compartments, however, appear to be different and only partially overlapping, thus suggesting that the maturational, developmental and ageing processes have distinct characteristics in the central and peripheral lymphoid organs. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-625
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2000


  • Age
  • Flow cytometry
  • Lymph nodes
  • Peripheral blood
  • Rat
  • Remodelling
  • T lymphocytes
  • Thymus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Medicine(all)


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