Age-related changes of neuro-endocrine-immune interactions in healthy humans

G. Mazzoccoli, M. Correra, G. Bianco, A. De Cata, M. Balzanelli, A. Giuliani, R. Tarquini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous interactions exist among the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, mediated by neurotransmitters, hormones and cytokines. The function of these systems shows patterns of circadian rhythmicity and a number of age-related changes in the 24-hour hormonal and nonhormonal rhythms have been found in older human beings. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of altered integration among the nervous, endocrine and immune systems in older adults. Cortisol, melatonin, thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), thyroid-stimulatinghormone (TSH), free thyroxine (FT 4) growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and interleukin 2 (IL-2) serum levels were measured and lymphocyte subpopulation analyses were performed on blood samples collected every four hours for 24 hours from seven healthy young subjects aged 36-58 years (mean age ± s.e. 45.28 ± 3.31) and from seven healthy old subjects aged 65-78 years (mean age ± s.e. 68.57 ± 1.91). There was a statistically significant difference between the groups in the observed values of CD20 (total B cells, higher in young subjects, t = 2.48, P = 0.028) and CD25 activated T cells with expression of the α chain of IL-2 receptor, higher in elderly subjects, t = -2.23, P = 0.045); DR+ T cells were also higher in elderly subjects, T = 34.0, P = 0.01). There was no statistically significant difference in the observed values of CD2 (total T lymphocytes), CD4 (helper/inducer T cells), CD8 (suppressor/cytotoxic T cells), CD4/CD8 ratio, CD16 (natural killer cells), HLA-DR (B cells and activated T cells), TcRδ1 (epitope of the constant domain of δ chain of T-cell receptor 1), cortisol, melatonin, TRH, TSH, FT 4, GH, IGF-I, IL-2. In the group of younger subjects a clear circadian rhythm was validated for the time-qualified changes of all the factors studied, with the exception of CD16, FT 4 and IL-2. In the group of elderly subjects a clear circadian rhythm was validated for the nyctohemeral changes of CD2 (with a phase delay of three hours), CD8, CD4/CD8 ratio, CD16, CD25 (in opposite phase), cortisol (with a phase delay of one hour), melatonin, TSH (with a phase delay of one hour) and GH (with a phase advance of one hour). The results of the current study show that aging is associated with enhanced responsiveness of the T cell compartment and alterations in temporal architecture of neuro-endocrine-immune system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-147
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997


  • Aging
  • Circadian rhythmicity
  • Neuro-endocrine-immune system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Physiology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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