Clinical and experimental immunology

Age-associated Epstein-Barr virus-specific T cell responses in seropositive healthy adults.

PMID 24666437


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is present in 95% of the world's adult population. The immune response participates in immune vigilance and persistent infection control, and this condition is maintained by both a good quality (functionality) and quantity of specific T cells throughout life. In the present study, we evaluated EBV-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocyte responses in seropositive healthy individuals younger and older than 50 years of age. The assessment comprised the frequency, phenotype, functionality and clonotypic distribution of T lymphocytes. We found that in both age groups a similar EBV-specific T cell response was found, with overlapping numbers of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α(+) T lymphocytes (CD4(+) and CD8(+)) within the memory and effector cell compartments, in addition to monofunctional and multi-functional T cells producing interleukin (IL)-2 and/or interferon (IFN)-γ. However, individuals aged more than 50 years showed significantly higher frequencies of IL-2-producing CD4(+) T lymphocytes in association with greater production of soluble IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-6 than subjects younger than 50 years. A polyclonal T cell receptor (TCR)-variable beta region (Vβ) repertoire exists in both age groups under basal conditions and in response to EBV; the major TCR families found in TNF-α(+) /CD4(+) T lymphocytes were Vβ1, Vβ2, Vβ17 and Vβ22 in both age groups, and the major TCR family in TNF-α(+) /CD8(+) T cells was Vβ13·1 for individuals younger than 50 years and Vβ9 for individuals aged more than 50 years. Our findings suggest that the EBV-specific T cell response (using a polyclonal stimulation model) is distributed throughout several T cell differentiation compartments in an age-independent manner and includes both monofunctional and multi-functional T lymphocytes.