Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is one of the most common persistent viral infections in humans worldwide and is epidemiologically associated with many adverse health consequences during aging. Previous studies yielded conflicting results regarding whether large, CMV-specific T-cell expansions maintain their function during human aging. In the current study, we examined the in vitro CMV-pp65-reactive T-cell response by comprehensively studying five effector functions (i.e., interleukin-2, tumor necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ, perforin, and CD107a expression) in 76 seropositive individuals aged 70 years or older. Two data-driven, polyfunctionality panels (IL-2-associated and cytotoxicity-associated) derived from effector function co-expression patterns were used to analyze the results. We found that, CMV-pp65-reactive CD8+ and CD4+ T cells contained similar polyfunctional subsets, and the level of polyfunctionality was related to the size of antigen-specific response. In both CD8+ and CD4+ cells, polyfunctional cells with high cytotoxic potential accounted for a larger proportion of the total response as the total response size increased. Notably, a higher serum CMV-IgG level was positively associated with a larger T-cell response size and a higher level of cytotoxic polyfunctionality. These findings indicate that CMV-pp65-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell undergo simultaneous cytotoxic polyfunctionality maturation during aging.
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