Vaccination with attenuated live varicella zoster virus (VZV) can prevent zoster reactivation, but protection is incomplete especially in an older population. To decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying variable vaccine responses, T- and B-cell responses to VZV vaccination were examined in individuals of different ages including identical twin pairs. Contrary to the induction of VZV-specific antibodies, antigen-specific T cell responses were significantly influenced by inherited factors. Diminished generation of long-lived memory T cells in older individuals was mainly caused by increased T cell loss after the peak response while the expansion of antigen-specific T cells was not affected by age. Gene expression in activated CD4 T cells at the time of the peak response identified gene modules related to cell cycle regulation and DNA repair that correlated with the contraction phase of the T cell response and consequently the generation of long-lived memory cells. These data identify cell cycle regulatory mechanisms as targets to reduce T cell attrition in a vaccine response and to improve the generation of antigen-specific T cell memory, in particular in an older population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology