Early age-related atrophy of cutaneous lymph nodes precipitates an early functional decline in skin immunity in mice with aging

Sandip Ashok Sonar, Jennifer L. Uhrlaub, Christopher P. Coplen, Gregory D. Sempowski, Jarrod A. Dudakov, Marcel R.M. Van den Brink, Bonnie J. LaFleur, Mladen Jergovic, Janko Nikolich-Zugich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs) (including the spleen and lymph nodes [LNs]) are critical both for the maintenance of naive T (TN) lymphocytes and for the initiation and coordination of immune responses. How they age, including the exact timing, extent, physiological relevance, and the nature of age-related changes, remains incompletely understood. We used "time stamping" to indelibly mark newly generated naive T cells (also known as recent thymic emigrants) (RTEs) in mice, and followed their presence, phenotype, and retention in SLOs. We found that SLOs involute asynchronously. Skin-draining LNs atrophied by 6 to 9 mo in life, whereas deeper tissuedraining LNs atrophied by 18 to 20 mo, as measured by the loss of both TN numbers and the fibroblastic reticular cell (FRC) network. Time-stamped RTEs at all ages entered SLOs and successfully completed postthymic differentiation, but the capacity of older SLOs to maintain TN numbers was reduced with aging, and that trait did not depend on the age of TNs. However, in SLOs of older mice, these cells exhibited an emigration phenotype (CCR7loS1P1hi), which correlated with an increase of the cells of the same phenotype in the blood. Finally, upon intradermal immunization, RTEs generated in mice barely participated in de novo immune responses and failed to produce well-armed effector cells detectable in blood as early as by 7 to 8 mo of age. These results highlight changes in structure and function of superficial secondary lymphoid organs in laboratory mice that are earlier than expected and are consistent with the long-appreciated reduction of cutaneous immunity with aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2121028119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 26 2022


  • T cells
  • aging
  • homeostasis
  • secondary lymphoid organs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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