The effects of aging on cellular and molecular components of the 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl acetyl-specific suppressor T (Ts) cell circuit were analyzed in vitro using inducer (Ts1), transducer (Ts2), and effector (Ts3) cells and activating factors (TsF1 and TsF2) derived from young or old mice. The activation of Ts2 cells by TsF1 and of Ts3 cells by TsF2 was found age-restricted, suggesting a loss of Ts2 and Ts3 cell subsets in old mice. However, the activation of Ts3 cells by small amounts of TsF2 is more efficient when both are derived from old rather than from young mice while the same level of maximum suppression is attained. Higher affinity of the interactions involved in Ts cell activation may compensate for loss of Ts cell subsets in old mice. No age restriction was found for antigen presentation to Ts1 cells and for the interaction between Ts3 cells and target B cells. Thus, the effects of aging on immunosuppression result from changes within the Ts cell circuit.
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