Age-associated parallel increase of Foxp3(+)CD4(+) regulatory and CD44(+)CD4(+) memory T cells in SJL/J mice

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Effector/memory T cells (Tem) are required to maintain successful immunity, while regulatory T cells (Treg) are required to prevent excessive/uncontrolled inflammation and/or autoimmunity. Although both Tem and Treg cells are increased during aging, the relationship between the increased proportion of Foxp3(+) Treg cells and CD44(+) Tem cells with aging is not clearly understood. We found in this report that Foxp3(+) Treg cells are increased in parallel with CD44(+) Tem cells in SJL/J mice with aging, and that all Foxp3(+) Treg cells are of CD44(+) Tem phenotype, suggesting that the increased Foxp3(+) Treg cells originated from the expanded pool of CD44(+) Tem cells with aging. Our in vitro kinetic studies further suggested that Foxp3(+) Treg cells are converted through the CD44(+) stage. Furthermore, we observed that although the balance between Foxp3(+) Treg and CD44(+)Foxp3(-) Tem cells remained with aging, the aged mice have higher ratios of both Tem and Treg cells vs. naïve T cells resulting in the "shrunken" naïve T cell pools. Our results suggest that an age-associated imbalance of T cell repertoire is a mechanism that contributes to spontaneous occurrence of Hodgkin's-like lymphoma in aged SJL/J mice.

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Cellular immunology

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