Effects of aging on human leukocytes (part I): immunophenotyping of innate immune cells

Ulrik Stervbo, Sarah Meier, Julia Nora Mälzer, Udo Baron, Cecilia Bozzetti, Karsten Jürchott, Mikalai Nienen, Sven Olek, Dominika Rachwalik, Axel Ronald Schulz, Julian Marcel Waldner, Avidan Neumann, Nina Babel, Andreas Grützkau, Andreas Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Immunosenescence is a hallmark of the aging immune system, leading to increased susceptibility to infections in the aged population and decreased ability to eradicate infectious pathogens. These effects, in turn, result in an increased burden on the healthcare system due to elevated frequency and duration of hospital visits. Growing evidence suggests that cells of the innate immune system are central modulators for the initiation and maintenance of an adequate pathogen-specific response through the adaptive immune system. While there are many reports on age-dependent alterations and dysfunctions of the adaptive immune system, the underlying mechanisms and effects of natural aging on the composition of the innate immune system remain unknown. Here, we present the results obtained from the comprehensive immunophenotyping of innate leukocyte populations, examined for age-related alterations within different sub-populations assessed using multi-parametric flow cytometry. We compared peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 24 young (aged 19–30 years) and 26 elderly (aged 53–67 years) donors. For classical CD16+CD56dim NK cells, the fraction of CD62L+CD57+ was diminished in the elderly donors compared with young individuals, while the other investigated NK subsets remained unaffected by age. Both transitional monocytes and non-classical CD14+–CD16++ monocytes were increased in the elderly compared with the young. The populations of pDCs and mDC2 were decreased among the elderly. These data demonstrate that the dynamics of the mDC subsets might counteract decreased virus surveillance. Furthermore, these data show that the maturation of NK cells might gradually slow down.

Original languageEnglish
Article number92
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, American Aging Association.


  • Aging
  • Dendritic cells
  • Flow cytometry
  • Immune cell subsets
  • Innate immunity
  • Monocytes


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