Systematic expression profiling of innate immune genes defines a complex pattern of immunosenescence in peripheral and intestinal leukocytes.

P Rosenstiel, S Derer, A Till, R Häsler, H Eberstein, B Bewig, S Nikolaus, A Nebel, S Schreiber
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Genes and immunity
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Immunosenescence is characterized by a quantitative decline of adequate immune responses, which renders the elderly individual particularly susceptible to bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens. Whereas changes of the aging adaptive immune system (for example, reduced immunoglobulin secretion) have been extensively characterized, alterations of the innate immune system are still poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to systematically examine mRNA expression levels of innate immune genes and proinflammatory cytokines in peripheral and intestinal leukocytes of subjects of different ages. In both, whole blood samples and in colonic biopsies most of the Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and nucleotide-binding and oligomerization domain-like receptors (NLRs) transcript levels were significantly downregulated in elderly subjects (90-99 years). Older individuals, when compared to the younger, exhibited an increased expression and/or secretion of proinflammatory cytokines by peripheral and intestinal leukocytes as well as an increased level of nuclear factor-kappaB activation in colonic biopsies. The observed downregulation of TLRs and NLRs during the aging process may contribute to the lack of effective recognition of invading pathogens or the commensal flora. This effect results in aberrant secondary immune cell activation and could significantly contribute to morbidity and mortality at advanced age.