Influence of aging on T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. The ability of the immune system to respond to vaccinations, such as that for influenza, declines with age. To begin to understand the mechanisms responsible for this decline, it is important to determine if age-related changes in CD4 T cell priming and Tfh differentiation lead to reductions in humoral responses following vaccinafion. To accomplish this, we have developed model systems that pemiit us to explore specific questions that remain unanswered in this field. Only when these questions are addressed and answered can we then begin to design strategies for overcoming them and enhancing vaccine efficacy for elderiy populations. In our studies, we have used adoptive transfer models that allow us to examine the influence of aging on specific components of the immune response individually. We have made a great deal of progress in determining the influence of age on the function of Tfh cells and how this impacts the humoral response to vaccination. Tfh have been recently defined as CD4 T cells that provide cognate help for B cell responses. They express specific cell surface markers, produce specific cytokines and can be found within germinal centers (GC) following vaccination. Our studies have revealed three important points regarding Tfh and humoral immune responses with aging: (1) There are intrinsic age-related defects in Tfh function that lead to reduced B cell expansion, differentiation, IgG production and afflnity maturafion;(2) In addifion to intrinsic age-related changes in Tfh, we have determined that there are age-related changes in the microenvironment of secondary lymphoid organs, including changes in CCL21 expression, which contributes to reduced CD4 T cell priming;(3) Antibodies (Ab) generated following vaccination oif intact aged mice exhibit significantly reduced protective capacity and an altered repertoire when compared to young mice. Together, we propose that these factors contribute to reduced Tfh differentiation and the reduced ability to generate a robust response to vaccination in aged individuals, ultimately resulting in reduced protection from subsequent infection. In this proposal, we will examine the mechanisms responsible for the reduced/altered function of aged Tfh and how adjuvants can overcome these defects. Importantly, we will also examine how this impacts the generation of a protective humoral response following infiuenza vaccination. Our hypothesis is that age-related reductions in Tfh priming, which are due to both T cell intrinsic and extrinsic changes, are a major factor in the reduced humoral response to vaccinations and that enhancing this priming can improve the immune response in aaed individuals.

Public Health Relevance

Influenza is foremost amongst infectious diseases associated with increased risk for serious complications and death with aging. While annual vaccination is a mainstay of infiuenza management, declines in the immune system contribute to reduction in vaccine efficacy for the elderiy. Thus, we need to better understand how age-related defects in the immune system contribute to reduced vaccine efficacy and if those defects can be overcome. The focus of this project is to examine the mechanisms involved in reduced CD4 T cell function with aging and determine how these are overcome with use of more potent adjuvants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-1 (02))
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Trudeau Institute, Inc.
Saranac Lake
United States
Zip Code
Zhang, Wenliang; Brahmakshatriya, Vinayak; Swain, Susan L (2014) CD4 T cell defects in the aged: causes, consequences and strategies to circumvent. Exp Gerontol 54:67-70
McKinstry, K Kai; Dutton, Richard W; Swain, Susan L et al. (2013) Memory CD4 T cell-mediated immunity against influenza A virus: more than a little helpful. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz) 61:341-53
Lefebvre, Julie S; Haynes, Laura (2013) Vaccine strategies to enhance immune responses in the aged. Curr Opin Immunol 25:523-8
Haynes, Laura; Swain, Susan L (2012) Aged-related shifts in T cell homeostasis lead to intrinsic T cell defects. Semin Immunol :
Blackman, Marcia A; Woodland, David L (2011) The narrowing of the CD8 T cell repertoire in old age. Curr Opin Immunol 23:537-42
Jones, Stephen C; Brahmakshatriya, Vinayak; Huston, Gail et al. (2010) TLR-activated dendritic cells enhance the response of aged naive CD4 T cells via an IL-6-dependent mechanism. J Immunol 185:6783-94
Kohlmeier, Jacob E; Connor, Lisa M; Roberts, Alan D et al. (2010) Nonmalignant clonal expansions of memory CD8+ T cells that arise with age vary in their capacity to mount recall responses to infection. J Immunol 185:3456-62
Takamura, Shiki; Roberts, Alan D; Jelley-Gibbs, Dawn M et al. (2010) The route of priming influences the ability of respiratory virus-specific memory CD8+ T cells to be activated by residual antigen. J Exp Med 207:1153-60
Tsukamoto, Hirotake; Huston, Gail E; Dibble, John et al. (2010) Bim dictates naive CD4 T cell lifespan and the development of age-associated functional defects. J Immunol 185:4535-44
Maue, Alexander C; Eaton, Sheri M; Lanthier, Paula A et al. (2009) Proinflammatory adjuvants enhance the cognate helper activity of aged CD4 T cells. J Immunol 182:6129-35

Showing the most recent 10 out of 27 publications