Previous studies indicate that the 3G11, CD45RB, and Pgp-1 determinants are differentially expressed on CD4+ T cell subsets in the mouse. We used multicolor immunofluorescence staining and flow cytofluorometric analysis to examine the expression of each of these determinants on splenic CD4+ cells from young (age 3 to 6 mo) and aged (age 24 to 26 mo) C57BL/6 mice. The CD4+ pool from aged mice contained significantly reduced numbers of 3G11+ and CD45RBhi cells, but increased numbers of Pgp-1hi cells, in comparison with the young group. Analysis of the simultaneous expression of all three subset determinants on CD4+ cells revealed that, in young mice, the major fraction (greater than 50%) was 3G11+CD45RBhiPgp-1lo. Among the less prevalent cell phenotypes, reductions in 3G11 expression correlated with decreases in CD45RB levels and increases in Pgp-1 levels. The phenotype that dominated the young group (3G11+CD45RBhiPgp-1lo) was approximately fivefold less represented in the aged group. The CD4+ pool from aged mice was characterized by increases in the 3G11-CD45RBvariablePgp-1hi and the 3G11+CD45RBloPgp-1hi phenotypes. To evaluate possible age-associated differences in cytokine secretion patterns by splenic CD4+ cells, purified CD4+ cells from each age group were stimulated in vitro with immobilized anti-CD3 epsilon mAb and accessory cells. At various times thereafter, supernatants from cultures were tested for IL-2 and IL-4 content by using the CTLL.6 and 11.6 bioassays, respectively, and the CD4+ cells were assayed for [3H]TdR uptake. Cell cultures from the aged group exhibited similar peak IL-2 accumulation and lower peak [3H]TdR uptake, but greatly increased peak IL-4 accumulation, as compared with cell cultures from the young group. The expression patterns of subset determinants, in conjunction with cytokine secretion profiles, indicate that, in aged mice, marked alterations occur in the subset composition of the splenic CD4+ cell pool. These findings are discussed in the context of previous findings on changes in T cell reactivity with advancing donor age.

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