A prominent feature of parasitic infections is the marked hyperplasia of lymphoid tissues. The resultant disruption of those tissues may be a major cause of the immunodepression that typifies parasitic infections. Trypanosoma musculi infections in mice evoke lymphoid hyperplasia and depressed immune responses. T. musculi infections are more severe in C3H than in C57BL/6 (B6) mice; and more severe in aged mice of either strain, compared with young adults. This report concerns a flow cytometric analysis of splenic leukocytes, identified by various surface Ag, in young and aged, trypanosome-infected mice of C3H and B6 strains. Companion studies included quantification of serum Ig isotypes at intervals during infection. The results support the following conclusions: a) all major types of splenic leukocytes were activated by trypanosome infection resulting in enlargement of the cells and proliferation ("blastogenic response"); b) in all young-adult mice and in aged B6 mice (but not aged C3H mice) Thy-1+, Ly-1+, and Ly-4+ cells increased moderately during infection whereas the number of Ly-2+ cells remained constant; c) all cells of the B lineage increased during the course of infection (except in aged C3H mice) with disproportionate increases in the most mature stage (IgG+); d) the responses of young adult C3H and B6 mice to infection differed as illustrated by the ability of B6, but not C3H, mice to limit hyperplasia and reverse the effect; e) aging of B6 mice was reflected by relative inability to regulate generation of mature Ig-producing cells; f) aging of C3H mice was severe as reflected by the relative inability of most subsets of leukocytes to react to the infection, possibly because of abnormalities that were intrinsic in aged, normal C3H mice. It is likely that: a) disruption of lymphoid tissue, probably mediated by alterations in the production of and responsiveness to cytokines, is responsible for the depressed ability of the immune system to defend against parasites; and b) such disruptive effects, being more pronounced in aged animals and less easily brought under control, account for the greater vulnerability of aged animals to parasitic infection.

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