The number of human peripheral blood CD4+ CD²⁵high regulatory T cells increases with age

R Gregg, CM Smith, Fiona Clark, DJ Dunnion, Naeem Khan, Ronjon Chakraverty, Uppinangady Nayak, Paul Moss

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288 Citations (Scopus)


Ageing is associated with evidence of immune deficiency and dysregulation. Key changes in the immune system with ageing include a progressive reduction in naive T cell output associated with thymic involution and peripheral expansion of oligoclonal memory T cells. These features are associated with evidence of impaired immune responsiveness both in vitro and in vivo, termed immune senescence. CD4(+) CD25(+) T cells have recently been recognized as mediators of peripheral immune regulation and play a role in the control of autoimmune and pathogen-specific immune responses. The significance of CD4(+) CD25(+) regulatory T cells in the context of immunosenescence is not known. We have investigated the number, phenotype and function of CD4(+) CD25(+) T cells in healthy volunteers over a wide age range. We demonstrate that the number of CD4(+) CD25(+) and CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells in healthy volunteers increases with age. In both age groups CD4(+) CD25(+) T cells showed a phenotype consistent with that described for regulatory T cells. Further analysis of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells in young and elderly donors showed equivalent expression of intracellular CTLA-4 and surface expression of activation markers. In vitro, functional titration assays of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells demonstrated equivalent regulatory function in both young and elderly donors, with suppression of proliferation and cytokine production in response to polyclonal T cell stimulation. These observations demonstrate an increase in peripheral blood CD4(+) CD25(high) regulatory T cells associated with ageing. The relevance of these expanded cells in relation to the immune senescence seen in the elderly as yet remains unclear.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-546
Number of pages7
JournalClinical & Experimental Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005


  • ageing
  • regulatory T cell


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