image_2_CD8+HLADR+ Regulatory T Cells Change With Aging: They Increase in Number, but Lose Checkpoint Inhibitory Molecules and Suppressive Function.tif

CD4+ regulatory T cells have been intensively studied during aging, but little is still known about age-related changes of other regulatory T cell subsets. It was, therefore, the goal of the present study to analyze CD8+human leukocyte antigen–antigen D related (HLADR)+ T cells in old age, a cell population reported to have suppressive activity and to be connected to specific genetic variants. We demonstrate a strong increase in the number of CD8+HLADR+ T cells with age in a cohort of female Sardinians as well as in elderly male and female persons from Austria. We also show that CD8+HLADR+ T cells lack classical activation molecules, such as CD69 and CD25, but contain increased numbers of checkpoint inhibitory molecules, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4, T cell immunoglobulin and mucin protein-3, LAG-3, and PD-1, when compared with their HLADR counterparts. They also have the capacity to inhibit the proliferation of autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells. This suppressive activity is, however, decreased when CD8+HLADR+ T cells from elderly persons are analyzed. In accordance with this finding, CD8+HLADR+ T cells from persons of old age contain lower percentages of checkpoint inhibitory molecules than young controls. We conclude that in spite of high abundance of a CD8+ regulatory T cell subset in old age its expression of checkpoint inhibitory molecules and its suppressive function on a per cell basis are reduced. Reduction of suppressive capacity may support uncontrolled subclinical inflammatory processes referred to as “inflamm-aging.”