How is immune senescence characterised and does age have a general or specific effect on immune responses against viruses?

Prof. Osterhaus  |  Prof. Rimmelzwaan

What is this research project about?

Influenza viruses (electron microscope image): They can harm older people in particular.

What is this research project about?

It is known that during aging, the functionality of the immune system declines. As a result, elderly persons are more prone to develop cancers and are more susceptible to infection with viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens. Examples are the increased susceptibility to infections with influenza viruses and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that can cause severe respiratory disease. Another consequence of the reduced function of the immune system is that elderly persons do not respond to vaccination as well as younger individuals. Therefore, the influenza vaccine effectiveness in the elderly is suboptimal. A better understanding of the mechanisms of reduced responsiveness to infection or vaccination and immune control over persistent infections (also known as immunosenescence), like those caused by Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) and of the defects of the elements that compose the immune system may aid the development of better intervention strategies and improved vaccines. Here our main interest is immunity to virus infections in individuals with different levels of immune-senescence.

What’s the current status?

The immune system is composed of various components and cells. In addition to components that respond to virus infection and vaccination in a non-specific way, cells of the adaptive immune system recognize their targets in a virus-specific way. The adaptive immune system against virus infections consists of virus specific B and T lymphocytes. B cells produce antibodies that can e.g. neutralize virus and prevent infection whereas T cells either regulate specific responses of B cells and T cells with other effector mechanisms. Upon stimulation T cells proliferate and acquire effector functions, that include production of cytokines and/or exertion of lytic and other control activities against virus-infected cells. Also memory cells are formed which lead to recall responses upon repeated encounters with the same or closely reated viruses. Immunosenescence may be related to failure to exert the effector functions of (memory) T cells properly. Identification of these defects as biomarkers for immunosenescence during aging will provide a lead towards improved anti-viral T cell function in the elderly.

The result of a blood test: Analysis of T-cell activation by using flow cytometry

What are the project goals?

The main goal is to identify functional defects in T cells or antibody responses specific to various viruses as hallmarks for immune-senescence and to identify other biomarkers that correspond to immune-senescence. We also want to assess if elderly people have a generalized state of immune dysfunction or whether this phenomenon is rather virus specific. By comparing the T cell responses to various viruses and by correlating those with the occurrence of VZV exacerbations we will demonstrate whether immune-senescence is dependent or not on the nature of the infectious agents, by comparing those causing persistent infections and repeated acute respiratory infections and by comparing histories of exposure (e.g to various antigenic variants of influenza virus).

How do we get there?

Using peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from cohorts of study subjects of various ages (young and older adults) and study subjects with or without episodes of VZV, T cell immunity and the presence of antibodies to RSV, influenza virus and VZV will be assessed. We will be using the Zoster cohort and age-matched control subjects from the RESIST cohort with citizens from Hannover to study immunity to other (respiratory) viruses. Specifically, we will study the functional properties of the virus specific T cells by determining their frequencies, their capacity to proliferate, produce cytokines and exert lytic activity. Comparing the T cell function of the respective study groups and virus specificities will teach us whether signs of immune-senescence are virus specific or more generic, which might shed light on the overall increased susceptibility to virus infection and reactivation of VZV due to reduced immune control.

The result of a blood test: Analysis of T-cell proliferation by using flow cytometry


Project title in the DFG proposal: Integrated analyses of funktional antiviral T cell responses in older adults with and without clinical VZV manifestations

Prof. Dr. Albertus Osterhaus

CV & Contact

Prof. Dr. Guus Rimmelzwaan

CV & Contact

Project B7 Publications

You will find project related publications here.

  1. Clinical, Radiological, and Laboratory Features of Spinal Cord Involvement in Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome. Butryn M, Neumann J, Rolfes L, Bartels C, Wattjes MP, Mahmoudi N, Seeliger T, Konen FF, Thiele T, Witte T, Meuth SG, Skripuletz T, Pawlitzki M. J Clin Med. 2020 May 14;9(5):1482. doi: 10.3390/jcm9051482. PMID: 32423153; PMCID: PMC7290729.
  2. The European Society for Immunodeficiencies (ESID) Registry Working Definitions for the Clinical Diagnosis of Inborn Errors of Immunity. Seidel MG, Kindle G, Gathmann B, Quinti I, Buckland M, van Montfrans J, Scheible R, Rusch S, Gasteiger LM, Grimbacher B, Mahlaoui N, Ehl S; ESID Registry Working Party and collaborators. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2019 Jul - Aug;7(6):1763-1770. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2019.02.004. Epub 2019 Feb 15.
  3. Evaluating laboratory criteria for combined immunodeficiency in adult patients diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency. von Spee-Mayer C, Koemm V, Wehr C, Goldacker S, Kindle G, Bulashevska A, Proietti M, Grimbacher B, Ehl S, Warnatz K. Clin Immunol. 2019 Jun;203:59-62. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2019.04.001. Epub 2019 Apr 17.
  4. Assessing the Functional Relevance of Variants in the IKAROS Family Zinc Finger Protein 1 (IKZF1) in a Cohort of Patients With Primary Immunodeficiency. Eskandarian Z, Fliegauf M, Bulashevska A, Proietti M, Hague R, Smulski CR, Schubert D, Warnatz K, Grimbacher B. Front Immunol. 2019 Apr 16;10:568. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00568. eCollection 2019. Erratum in: Front Immunol. 2019 Jun 28;10:1490.
  5. Corrigendum: Assessing the Functional Relevance of Variants in the IKAROS Family Zinc Finger Protein 1 (IKZF1) in a Cohort of Patients With Primary Immunodeficiency. Eskandarian Z, Fliegauf M, Bulashevska A, Proietti M, Hague R, Smulski CR, Schubert D, Warnatz K, Grimbacher B. Front Immunol. 2019 Jun 28;10:1490. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01490. eCollection 2019.
  6. The German National Registry of Primary Immunodeficiencies (2012-2017). El-Helou SM, Biegner AK, Bode S, Ehl SR, Heeg M, Maccari ME, Ritterbusch H, Speckmann C, Rusch S, Scheible R, Warnatz K, Atschekzei F, Beider R, Ernst D, Gerschmann S, Jablonka A, Mielke G, Schmidt RE, Schürmann G, Sogkas G, Baumann UH, Klemann C, Viemann D, von Bernuth H, Krüger R, Hanitsch LG, Scheibenbogen CM, Wittke K, Albert MH, Eichinger A, Hauck F, Klein C, Rack-Hoch A, Sollinger FM, Avila A, Borte M, Borte S, Fasshauer M, Hauenherm A, Kellner N, Müller AH, Ülzen A, Bader P, Bakhtiar S, Lee JY, Heß U, Schubert R, Wölke S, Zielen S, Ghosh S, Laws HJ, Neubert J, Oommen PT, Hönig M, Schulz A, Steinmann S, Schwarz K, Dückers G, Lamers B, Langemeyer V, Niehues T, Shai S, Graf D, Müglich C, Schmalzing MT, Schwaneck EC, Tony HP, Dirks J, Haase G, Liese JG, Morbach H, Foell D, Hellige A, Wittkowski H, Masjosthusmann K, Mohr M, Geberzahn L, Hedrich CM, Müller C, Rösen-Wolff A, Roesler J, Zimmermann A, Behrends U, Rieber N, Schauer U, Handgretinger R, Holzer U, Henes J, Kanz L, Boesecke C, Rockstroh JK, Schwarze-Zander C, Wasmuth JC, Dilloo D, Hülsmann B, Schönberger S, Schreiber S, Zeuner R, Ankermann T, von Bismarck P, Huppertz HI, Kaiser-Labusch P, Greil J, Jakoby D, Kulozik AE, Metzler M, Naumann-Bartsch N, Sobik B, Graf N, Heine S, Kobbe R, Lehmberg K, Müller I, Herrmann F, Horneff G, Klein A, Peitz J, Schmidt N, Bielack S, Groß-Wieltsch U, Classen CF, Klasen J, Deutz P, Kamitz D, Lassay L, Tenbrock K, Wagner N, Bernbeck B, Brummel B, Lara-Villacanas E, Münstermann E, Schneider DT, Tietsch N, Westkemper M, Weiß M, Kramm C, Kühnle I, Kullmann S, Girschick H, Specker C, Vinnemeier-Laubenthal E, Haenicke H, Schulz C, Schweigerer L, Müller TG, Stiefel M, Belohradsky BH, Soetedjo V, Kindle G, Grimbacher B. Front Immunol. 2019 Jul 19;10:1272. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01272. eCollection 2019.
  7. The architecture of the IgG anti-carbohydrate repertoire in primary antibody deficiencies. Jandus P, Boligan KF, Smith DF, de Graauw E, Grimbacher B, Jandus C, Abdelhafez MM, Despont A, Bovin N, Simon D, Rieben R, Simon HU, Cummings RD, von Gunten S. Blood. 2019 Nov 28;134(22):1941-1950. doi: 10.1182/blood.2019001705.
  8. Distinct molecular response patterns of activating STAT3 mutations associate with penetrance of lymphoproliferation and autoimmunity. Jägle S, Heeg M, Grün S, Rensing-Ehl A, Maccari ME, Klemann C, Jones N, Lehmberg K, Bettoni C, Warnatz K, Grimbacher B, Biebl A, Schauer U, Hague R, Neth O, Mauracher A, Pachlopnik Schmid J, Fabre A, Kostyuchenko L, Führer M, Lorenz MR, Schwarz K, Rohr J, Ehl S. Clin Immunol. 2019 Nov 23;210:108316. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2019.108316.
  9. Late-Onset Antibody Deficiency Due to Monoallelic Alterations in NFKB1. Schröder C, Sogkas G, Fliegauf M, Dörk T, Liu D, Hanitsch LG, Steiner S, Scheibenbogen C, Jacobs R, Grimbacher B, Schmidt RE, Atschekzei F. Front Immunol. 2019 Nov 14;10:2618. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02618. eCollection 2019.
  10. Structural Noninfectious Manifestations of the Central Nervous System in Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disorders. van de Ven A, Mader I, Wolff D, Goldacker S, Fuhrer H, Rauer S, Grimbacher B, Warnatz K. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2019 Dec 16. pii: S2213-2198(19)31026-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2019.11.039.
  11. Long-term outcome of LRBA deficiency in 76 patients after various treatment modalities as evaluated by the immune deficiency and dysregulation activity (IDDA) score. Tesch VK, Abolhassani H, Shadur B, Zobel J, Mareika Y, Sharapova S, Karakoc-Aydiner E, Rivière JG, Garcia-Prat M, Moes N, Haerynck F, Gonzales-Granado LI, Santos Pérez JL, Mukhina A, Shcherbina A, Aghamohammadi A, Hammarström L, Dogu F, Haskologlu S, İkincioğulları AI, Bal SK, Baris S, Kilic SS, Karaca NE, Kutukculer N, Girschick H, Kolios A, Keles S, Uygun V, Stepensky P, Worth A, van Montfrans JM, Peters AM4, Meyts I, Adeli M, Marzollo A, Padem N, Khojah AM, Chavoshzadeh Z, Stefanija MA, Bakhtiar S, Florkin B, Meeths M, Gamez L, Grimbacher B, Seppänen MR, Lankester A, Gennery AR, Seidel MG; Inborn Errors, Clinical, and Registry Working Parties of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) and the European Society of Immunodeficiencies (ESID). J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019 Dec 27. pii: S0091-6749(19)32603-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.12.896.

Project B7