Natural killer cell development and maturation in aged mice

Eleni Beli, David M Duriancik, Jonathan F Clinthorne, Taehyung Lee, Sungjin Kim, Elizabeth M Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of aging on natural killer cell homeostasis is not well studied in humans or in animal models. We compared natural killer (NK) cells from young and aged mice to investigate age-related defects in NK cell distribution and development. Our findings indicate aged mice have reduced NK cells in most peripheral tissues, but not in bone marrow. Reduction of NK cells in periphery was attributed to a reduction of the most mature CD11b(+) CD27(-) NK cells. Apoptosis was not found to explain this specific reduction of mature NK cells. Analysis of NK cell development in bone marrow revealed that aged NK cells progress normally through early stages of development, but a smaller percentage of aged NK cells achieved terminal maturation. Less mature NK cells in aged bone marrow correlated with reduced proliferation of immature NK cells. We propose that advanced age impairs bone marrow maturation of NK cells, possibly affecting homeostasis of NK cells in peripheral tissues. These alterations in NK cell maturational status have critical consequences for NK cell function in advanced age: reduction of the mature circulating NK cells in peripheral tissues of aged mice affects their overall capacity to patrol and eliminate cancerous and viral infected cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.


  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Bone Marrow/pathology
  • Bone Marrow Cells/cytology
  • CD11b Antigen/metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Killer Cells, Natural/cytology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Phenotype
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7/metabolism


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