Expression of CD39 on Activated T Cells Impairs their Survival in Older Individuals

Fengqin Fang, Mingcan Yu, Mary M. Cavanagh, Jessica Hutter Saunders, Qian Qi, Zhongde Ye, Sabine Le Saux, William Sultan, Emerson Turgano, Cornelia L. Dekker, Lu Tian, Cornelia M. Weyand, Jörg J. Goronzy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


In an immune response, CD4+ T cells expand into effector T cells and then contract to survive as long-lived memory cells. To identify age-associated defects in memory cell formation, we profiled activated CD4+ T cells and found an increased induction of the ATPase CD39 with age. CD39+ CD4+ T cells resembled effector T cells with signs of metabolic stress and high susceptibility to undergo apoptosis. Pharmacological inhibition of ATPase activity dampened effector cell differentiation and improved survival, suggesting that CD39 activity influences T cell fate. Individuals carrying a low-expressing CD39 variant responded better to vaccination with an increase in vaccine-specific memory T cells. Increased inducibility of CD39 after activation may contribute to the impaired vaccine response with age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1218-1231
Number of pages14
JournalCell reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 9 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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