Telomeres provide a key mechanism for protecting the integrity of chromosomes and their attrition after cell division and during aging are evident in lymphocytes. However, the significance of telomere shortening in age-associated decline of immune function is unknown.
We selected 22 HLA-A2-positive healthy older adults who have relatively short or long telomere lengths to compare their antibody response against the influenza vaccine, and their CD8(+) T-cell response against an influenza antigen.
B cells from individuals with a robust antibody response to the influenza vaccine had significantly longer telomeres than those with a poor antibody response. Monocyte-derived antigen-presenting cells of both short and long telomere groups induced similar expansions of influenza M1-specific CD8(+) T cells. Vaccination did not increase M1-specific CD8(+) T cells in blood, but M1-specific CD8(+) T cells from the long telomere group exhibited significantly greater expansion in vitro than those from the short telomere group. Finally, M1-specific CD8(+) T cells that underwent more expansions had significantly longer telomeres than cells with fewer divisions.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2015. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
Telomere length is positively associated with a robust lymphocyte response, and telomere attrition may contribute to the age-associated decline of adaptive immunity.