Immune senescence: relative contributions of age and cytomegalovirus infection

Andrea Mekker, Vincent S Tchang, Lea Haeberli, Annette Oxenius, Alexandra Trkola, Urs Karrer
Immune senescence, defined as the age-associated dysregulation and dysfunction of the immune system, is characterised by impaired protective immunity and decreased efficacy of vaccines. Recent clinical, epidemiological and immunological studies suggest that Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection may be associated with accelerated immune senescence, possibly by restricting the naïve T cell repertoire. However, direct evidence whether and how CMV-infection is implicated in immune senescence is still
more » ... scence is still lacking. In this study, we have investigated whether latent mouse CMV (MCMV) infection with or without thymectomy (Tx) alters antiviral immunity of young and aged mice. After infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) or Vaccinia virus, specific antiviral T cell responses were significantly reduced in old, old MCMV-infected and/or Tx mice compared to young mice. Importantly, control of LCMV replication was more profoundly impaired in aged MCMV-infected mice compared to age-matched MCMV-naïve or young mice. In addition, latent MCMV infection was associated with slightly reduced vaccination efficacy in old Tx mice. In contrast to the prevailing hypothesis of a CMV-mediated restriction of the naïve T cell repertoire, we found similar naïve T cell numbers in MCMV-infected and non-infected mice, whereas ageing and Tx clearly reduced the naïve T cell pool. Instead, MCMV-infection expanded the total CD8(+) T cell pool by a massive accumulation of effector memory T cells. Based on these results, we propose a new model of increased competition between CMV-specific memory T cells and any 'de novo' immune response in aged individuals. In summary, our results directly demonstrate in a mouse model that latent CMV-infection impairs immunity in old age and propagates immune senescence.
doi:10.5167/uzh-64617 fatcat:g33zjqj7tnbato2hv2u23nmmua