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Aging Enhances the Production of Reactive Oxygen Species and Bactericidal Activity in Peritoneal Macrophages by Upregulating Classical Activation Pathways

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journal contribution
posted on 15.11.2011 by Heather S. Smallwood, Daniel López-Ferrer, Thomas C. Squier
Maintenance of macrophages in their basal state and their rapid activation in response to pathogen detection are central to the innate immune system, acting to limit nonspecific oxidative damage and promote pathogen killing following infection. To identify possible age-related alterations in macrophage function, we have assayed the function of peritoneal macrophages from young (3–4 months) and aged (14–15 months) Balb/c mice. In agreement with prior suggestions, we observe age-dependent increases in the extent of recruitment of macrophages into the peritoneum, as well as ex vivo functional changes involving enhanced nitric oxide production under resting conditions that contribute to a reduction in the time needed for full activation of senescent macrophages following exposure to lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Further, we observe enhanced bactericidal activity following Salmonella uptake by macrophages isolated from aged Balb/c mice in comparison with those isolated from young animals. Pathways responsible for observed phenotypic changes were interrogated using tandem mass spectrometry, which identified age-dependent increases in levels of proteins linked to immune cell pathways under basal conditions and following LPS activation. Immune pathways upregulated in macrophages isolated from aged mice include proteins critical to the formation of the immunoproteasome. Detection of these latter proteins is dramatically enhanced following LPS exposure for macrophages isolated from aged animals; in comparison, the identification of immunoproteasome subunits is insensitive to LPS exposure for macrophages isolated from young animals. Consistent with observed global changes in the proteome, quantitative proteomic measurements indicate that there are age-dependent abundance changes involving specific proteins linked to immune cell function under basal conditions. LPS exposure selectively increases the levels of many proteins involved in immune cell function in aged Balb/c mice. Collectively, these results indicate that macrophages isolated from old mice are in a preactivated state that enhances their sensitivities to LPS exposure. The hyper-responsive activation of macrophages in aged animals may act to minimize infection by general bacterial threats that arise due to age-dependent declines in adaptive immunity. However, this hypersensitivity and the associated increase in the level of formation of reactive oxygen species are likely to contribute to observed age-dependent increases in the level of oxidative damage that underlie many diseases of the elderly.