The effects of aging and maternal protein restriction during lactation on thymic involution and peripheral immunosenescence in adult mice

Heppolette, C A A and Chen, J-H and Carr, S K and Palmer, D B and Ozanne, S E (2016) The effects of aging and maternal protein restriction during lactation on thymic involution and peripheral immunosenescence in adult mice. Oncotarget, 7 (6). pp. 6398-6409.

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Abstract

Environmental factors such as nutrition during early life can influence long-term health, a concept termed developmental programming. Initial research was focused towards the effects on metabolic health but more recent studies have demonstrated effects on parameters such as lifespan and immunity. In this study we report that maternal protein restriction during lactation in mice, that is known to prolong lifespan, slows aging of the central and peripheral immune systems. Offspring of dams fed a postnatal low-protein (PLP) diet during lactation had a significant increase in thymic cellularity and T cell numbers across their lifespan compared to controls, and a less marked age-associated decrease in thymocyte cluster of differentiation (CD) 3 expression. PLP animals also demonstrated increased relative splenic cellularity, increased naïve: memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cell ratios, increased staining and density of germinal centres, and decreased gene expression of p16 in the spleen, a robust biomarker of aging. A slower rate of splenic aging in PLP animals would be expected to result in decreased susceptibility to infection and neoplasia. In conclusion nutritionally-induced slow postnatal growth leads to delayed aging of the adaptive immune system, which may contribute towards the extended lifespan observed in these animals.

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