Key Points

  • In aging, B-cell regeneration is regulated by cross-talk between peripheral B cells and progenitors in the bone marrow

  • This repression is mediated by a TNFα/IGFBP-1/IGF1 immune-endocrine axis. Perturbation of this axis restores B-lymphopoiesis in aging

Loss of B lymphocyte regeneration in the bone marrow (BM) is an immunological hallmark of advanced age, which impairs the replenishment of peripheral B-cell subsets and results in impaired humoral responses, thereby contributing to immune system dysfunction associated with aging. A better understanding of the mechanism behind this loss may suggest ways to restore immune competence and promote healthy aging. In the present work, we uncover an immune-endocrine regulatory circuit that mediates cross-talk between peripheral B-cells and progenitors in the BM, to balance B-lymphopoiesis in both human and mouse aging. We found that tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which is highly produced by peripheral B-cells in aging, stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1), which binds and sequesters insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) in the circulation, thereby restraining its activity in promoting B-lymphopoiesis in the BM. Upon B-cell depletion in aged humans and mice, circulatory TNFα decreases, resulting in increased IGF1 and reactivation of B-lymphopoiesis. Perturbation of this circuit by administration of IGF1 to old mice or anti-TNFa antibodies to human patients restored B-lymphopoiesis in the BM. Hence, we suggest that in both human and mouse aging, peripheral B-cells utilize the TNFα/IGFBP-1/IGF1 axis to repress B-lymphopoiesis.

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