Age-matched reference values for lymphocyte subpopulations are generally obtained via cross-sectional studies, whereas patients are followed longitudinally. We performed a detailed longitudinal analysis of the changes in lymphocyte subpopulations in a group of 11 healthy infants followed from birth up to 1 y of age, with special attention for early developmental markers, markers of maturation, and markers of activation. We found that T and B lymphocytes increased at 1 and 6 wk of age, respectively. In contrast, NK cells showed a sharp decline directly after birth, suggesting that they are more important during pregnancy than thereafter. CD45RA+--mainly CD4+--naive T lymphocytes were high at birth, and increased further during the first year of life; they form a large expanding pool of cells, ready for participation in primary immune responses. The absolute counts of CD45RO+ memory T lymphocytes were similar in infants and adults, albeit with a lower level of expression of CD45RO on infant T lymphocytes. Almost all infant T lymphocytes expressed CD38 throughout the first year of life. The abundant expression of CD38 on an infant's T lymphocytes might be related to a greater metabolic need of the large population of naive untriggered cells that are continually involved in primary immune responses during the first year of life. The high B lymphocyte counts in infants mainly concerned CD38+ B lymphocytes throughout the first year of life. Also, the relative frequencies of CD1c+ and CD5+ B lymphocytes were higher throughout the first year of life than in adults. Therefore, CD1c, CD5, and CD38 could be markers of untriggered B lymphocytes. In conclusion, our longitudinal survey of T and B lymphocytes, NK cells, and their subpopulations during the first year of life helps to complete the picture of lymphocyte development in infants. This information contributes to the correct interpretation of data from infants with possible immune disorders.

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Pediatric Research: international journal of human developmental biology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Vries, E., de Bruin-Versteeg, S., Comans-Bitter, W. M., de Groot, R., Hop, W., Boerma, G., … van Dongen, J. (2000). Longitudinal survey of lymphocyte subpopulations in the first year of life. Pediatric Research: international journal of human developmental biology. Retrieved from