Background: Aging is known to induce immunosenescence, resulting in alterations in both the innate and adaptive immune system. Here we evaluated the effects of aging on B cell subsets in peripheral blood of 155 immunologically healthy individuals in four age categories (range 20-95y) via multi-parameter flow cytometry. Furthermore, we studied the naive and antigen-experienced B cell receptor (BCR) repertoire of different age groups and compared it to the clonal BCR repertoire of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a disease typically presenting in elderly individuals.
Results: Total numbers and relative frequencies of B cells were found to decline upon aging, with reductions in transitional B cells, memory cell types, and plasma blasts in the 70 + y group. The BCR repertoire of naive mature B cells and antigen-experienced B cells did not clearly alter until age 70y. Clear changes in IGHV gene usage were observed in naive mature B cells of 70 + y individuals, with a transitional pattern in the 50-70y group. IGHV gene usage of naive mature B cells of the 50-70y, but not the 70 + y, age group resembled that of both younger (50-70y) and older (70 + y) CLL patients. Additionally, CLL-associated stereotypic BCR were found as part of the healthy control BCR repertoire, with an age-associated increase in frequency of several stereotypic BCR (particularly subsets #2 and #5).
Conclusion: Composition of the peripheral B cell compartment changes with ageing, with clear reductions in non-switched and CD27 + IgG+ switched memory B cells and plasma blasts in especially the 70 + y group. The BCR repertoire is relatively stable until 70y, whereafter differences in IGHV gene usage are seen. Upon ageing, an increasing trend in the occurrence of particular CLL-associated stereotypic BCR is observed.