Age-associated alterations in sympathetic noradrenergic innervation of primary and secondary lymphoid organs in female Fischer 344 rats
Journal of Neuroimmunology
Normal aging processes, as well as, psychological stress affect the immune system; each can act alone, or interact with each other, to cause dysregulation of immune function substantially altering physical and mental health. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS), a major mediator of stress effects on immune function, is significantly affected by normal aging process, and stress can affect aging of the SNS. Previously, we have shown age-associated changes in sympathetic noradrenergic (NA)
... nergic (NA) innervation of lymphoid organs in male rodents that affect immune regulation. The purpose of this study was to investigate sympathetic innervation of lymphoid organs and associated alterations in immune responses in young and aging female Fischer 344 (F344) rats. Histofluorescence and immunocytochemistry for NA innervation, and neurochemistry for norepinephrine (NE) levels were performed in the thymus, spleen, and mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) isolated from 3-month-old young (normal estrous cycle), 8-to 9-month-old (onset of irregular estrous cycling), and 24-25 month, and 30-31 month female F344 rats (acyclic) at diestrus based on vaginal smears. Age-related alterations in natural killer (NK) cell activity, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production, T and B lymphocyte proliferation were examined in splenocytes. Sympathetic NA innervation and NE levels increased with aging in the thymus, declined in spleen and MLN, and was accompanied by significant reductions in NK cell activity, IL-2 and IFN-γ production, and T and B cell proliferation in old female rats. In 8-9 mo rats, NE levels in the hilar region of the spleen and IFN-γ production were unaltered, while NE levels in the end region of the spleen and IL-2 production were reduced. Collectively, these results suggest that aging is characterized by significant alterations in sympathetic NA innervation in the thymus, spleen, and MLN associated with immunosuppression, and that there is a marked shift in NA activity and immune reactivity occurring during middle-aged female rats.