T cell aging as a risk factor for autoimmunity

Qingxiang Liu, Yanyan Zheng, Jorg J. Goronzy, Cornelia M. Weyand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immune aging is a complex process rendering the host susceptible to cancer, infection, and insufficient tissue repair. Many autoimmune diseases preferentially occur during the second half of life, counterintuitive to the concept of excess adaptive immunity driving immune-mediated tissue damage. T cells are particularly susceptible to aging-imposed changes, as they are under extreme proliferative pressure to fulfill the demands of clonal expansion and of homeostatic T cell repopulation. T cells in older adults have a footprint of genetic and epigenetic changes, lack mitochondrial fitness, and fail to maintain proteostasis, diverging them from host protection to host injury. Here, we review recent progress in understanding how the human T-cell system ages and the evidence detailing how T cell aging contributes to autoimmune conditions. T cell aging is now recognized as a risk determinant in two prototypic autoimmune syndromes; rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis. The emerging concept adds susceptibility to autoimmune and autoinflammatory disease to the spectrum of aging-imposed adaptations and opens new opportunities for immunomodulatory therapy by restoring the functional intactness of aging T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102947
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Autoimmune disease
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Immune aging
  • Inflammaging
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • T cell aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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