Studies on the mechanism of low natural killer cell activity in infant and aged mice

C. Riccardi, A. Giampietri, G. Migliorati, L. Frati, R. B. Herberman

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NK activity in mice is high between about 6 and 10 weeks of age. In contrast, infant mice and mice older than 12-14 weeks of age usually have quite low or undetectable NK activity. Studies were performed to analyze the mechanisms underlying this characteristic age-related regulation of NK activity. Spleen cells from infant mice did not develop appreciable NK activity upon incubation for 12-18 h with either interferon (IFN) or interleukin-2 (IL-2). Analysis of the frequency of IL-2-dependent progenitors of NK cells, in a limiting dilution assay, also indicated that the spleens of infant mice are deficient in precursors of NK cells. In contrast, spleen cells from old mice (30 weeks old) developed substantial levels of NK activity upon incubation with either IFN or IL-2, and they showed a frequency of IL-2-dependent progenitors of effector cells that was similar to that of young mice. Both infant and old mice had plastic-adherent suppressor cells in their spleens, which could strongly inhibit NK activity. In addition, both infant and old mouse spleen cells contained nonadherent suppressor cells, which had a higher density on Percoll gradients than NK cells. Thus, several factors appear to contribute to the age-related regulations of NK activity in mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-249
Number of pages12
JournalNatural Immunity and Cell Growth Regulation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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