Neonatal animals are highly susceptible to infectious agents. At least part of this susceptibility is due to the virtual absence of immunological memory in newborns. One of the hallmarks of memory is the rapidity of the response. We show in this study that neonates may make up for their lack of memory, at least in part, by the rapid entry of large proportions of naive lymphocytes into the cell cycle. Following activation, greater percentages of both CD4+ and CD8+ neonatal, as compared with adult, lymph node cells showed early cell cycle entry; this was assessed by propidium iodide staining, CFSE labeling profiles, [3H]thymidine uptake, and up-regulation of early activation markers. This rapid cycle entry was observed following polyclonal activation with anti-CD3 or with PMA and ionomycin and in both C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice. Stimulation with specific peptide also elicited more rapid proliferative responses from neonatal vs adult TCR transgenic CD4+ cells. In addition, more rapid cycle entry was observed in vivo, in lymphopenic RAG2-/- hosts. For both CD4+ and CD8+ cells, this phenomenon was observed out to 3 wk of life, although the differences between neonatal and adult cells became smaller with increasing time postbirth. These properties of peripheral neonatal T cells appeared to be inherited from their thymic precursors, because CD4+8- single-positive cells in the neonatal thymus also showed more rapid cycle entry, compared with their counterparts in the adult thymus. Interestingly, rapid early cycling was also observed among activated neonatal B cells, compared with adult B cells. Thus, early cell cycle entry by large proportions of cells may allow the naive lymphocyte population to efficiently mobilize responses against the broad range of pathogens first encountered in neonatal life.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy