Background: Immunosenescence (ISC) describes age-related changes in immune-system composition and function. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong inflammatory condition involving effector and regulatory T-cell imbalance, yet little is known about T-cell ISC in MS. We examined age-associated changes in circulating T cells in MS compared to normal controls (NC). Methods: Forty untreated MS (Mean Age 43·3, Range 18–72) and 49 NC (Mean Age 48·6, Range 20–84) without inflammatory conditions were included in cross-sectional design. T-cell subsets were phenotypically and functionally characterized using validated multiparametric flow cytometry. Their aging trajectories, and differences between MS and NC, were determined using linear mixed-effects models. Findings: MS patients demonstrated early and persistent redistribution of naïve and memory CD4 T-cell compartments. While most CD4 and CD8 T-cell aging trajectories were similar between groups, MS patients exhibited abnormal age-associated increases of activated (HLA-DR+CD38+; (P = 0·013) and cytotoxic CD4 T cells, particularly in patients >60 (EOMES: P < 0·001). Aging MS patients also failed to upregulate CTLA-4 expression on both CD4 (P = 0·014) and CD8 (P = 0·009) T cells, coupled with abnormal age-associated increases in frequencies of B cells expressing costimulatory molecules. Interpretation: While many aspects of T-cell aging in MS are conserved, the older MS patients harbour abnormally increased frequencies of CD4 T cells with activated and cytotoxic effector profiles. Age-related decreased expression of T-cell co-inhibitory receptor CTLA-4, and increased B-cell costimulatory molecule expression, may provide a mechanism that drives aberrant activation of effector CD4 T cells that have been implicated in progressive disease. Funding: Stated in Acknowledgements section of manuscript.
- Multiple sclerosis
- T lymphocytes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)