The functional differentiation of immune cells at early age plays a central role in immune physiology, e.g. for the sufficient eradication of pathogens. However, imbalances in effector cell responses may also have an impact in the pathophysiology of childhood diseases such as atopy and autoimmune disorders. As information on immune cell responses in infancy and early childhood is scarce, we conducted an observational, cross-sectional study in healthy newborns (n = 18), infants and young children (n = 54) aged 1-96 months and adult controls (n = 19) to assess cytokine mRNA and protein expression upon phorbol 12-myristate 13-actate/ionomycin stimulation and LPS-induced IL-12 expression in monocytes. The intracellular expression of interferon (IFN)-γ, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α (R = 0.748, P < 0.0001; R = 0.784, P < 0.0001, respectively) and interleukin (IL)-2 protein expression (R = 0.384, P = 0.008) was demonstrated to increase progressively with age. While a correlation between IL-4 protein expression and age was noted (R = 0.342, P = 0.007), the levels of IL-5 and IL-10 protein expression tended to be regulated on an individual basis during infancy and early childhood. An age correlation was also observed for intracellular IL-12 expression (R = 0.331, P = 0.009) in monocytes. These findings are valuable for further assessment of normal variations and maturation processes in immune cell responses and for the clinical-therapeutic monitoring of immunological status in various childhood diseases.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)