Ageing is associated with complex remodelling in the phenotypic and functional profiles of T lymphocytes. We investigated whether expression of CD28 antigen on T cells is conserved throughout adulthood and ageing in humans. For this purpose we analysed T cells obtained from peripheral blood of 102 healthy people of ages ranging from 20 to 105 years. We found an age-related increase of CD28- T cells in percentage and absolute number, predominantly among CD8+ T cells. CD28- T cells from aged donors analysed by flow cytometry appeared as resting cells (not expressing CD25, CD38, CD69, CD71, DR), bearing markers of cytotoxic activity (CD11b and CD57) and with a phenotype compatible with 'memory' cells (up-regulated CD2 and CD11a; CD62L absent). At the functional level, freshly isolated purified CD28-CD8+ T cells showed high anti-CD3 redirected cytotoxic activity against Fc-bearing P815 cells. The same activity tested on freshly isolated bulk T lymphocytes was significantly augmented with age. We found a positive correlation between age, number of CD8+ CD28- T cells and anti-CD3 redirected cytotoxicity by freshly isolated T cells. These data suggest that an activation of unknown nature within the cytotoxic arm of the immune system occurs with age. We speculate that these cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in vivo may constitute armed effector cells for immediate killing of targets bearing peptides from pathogens of intracellular origin.
|Number of pages||7|
|Publication status||Published - 1996|
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