Functional activities and cell cooperation of macrophages (Mphi), T cells, and B cells of young and old Lewis rats were compared. Splenic M phi from young and old rats provided accessory help for T cell mitogenesis and B cell mitogenesis, provided accessory help for generation of PFC, and produced IL 1 equally well as measured in costimulator assays. Splenic T cells of aged Lewis rats, however, were poorly responsive in mitogen assays and did not respond to supplemental IL 2 and antigen with blast transformation and with increased help for B cells to produce PFC. "Old" B cells did not respond in vitro to mitogens with help from M phi and T cells, nor did they respond to B cell helper factor with increased PFC. The data indicate that hyporesponsiveness of the immune system, especially of B cells, in aged rats is due in part to defective reactivity to interleukins and cytokine(s) and to defective cell-cell cooperation.

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