West Nile virus (WNV) is an emerging pathogen that causes disease syndromes ranging from a mild flu-like illness to encephalitis. While the incidence of WNV infection is fairly uniform across age groups, the risk of lethal encephalitis increases with advanced age. Prior studies have demonstrated age-related, functional immune deficits that limit systemic antiviral immunity and increase mortality; however, the effect of age on antiviral immune responses specifically within the central nervous system (CNS) is unknown. Here, we show that aged mice exhibit increased peripheral organ and CNS tissue viral burden, the latter of which is associated with alterations in activation of both myeloid and lymphoid cells compared with similarly infected younger animals. Aged mice exhibit lower MHCII expression by microglia, and higher levels of PD1 and lower levels of IFNγ expression by WNV-specific CD8+ T cells in the CNS and CD8+CD45+ cells. These data indicate that the aged CNS exhibits limited local reactivation of T cells during viral encephalitis, which may lead to reduced virologic control at this site.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13412
JournalAging Cell
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • CNS
  • West Nile virus
  • aging
  • antiviral T cells
  • microglia
  • viral encephalitis


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