Investigation of innate immune function in adult and geriatric horses

Ashton B. Miller, Alan T. Loynachan, Virginia D. Barker, Amanda A. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In order to better understand the influence of age on innate immune function in horses, blood was collected from twelve adult horses (aged 10–16 years; mean: 13 years) and ten geriatric horses (aged 18–26 years; mean: 21.7 years) for analysis of plasma myeloperoxidase, complete blood counts, and cytokine and receptor expression in response to in vitro stimulation with heat-inactivated Rhodococcus equi, heat-inactivated Escherichia coli, and PMA/ionomycin. Gene expression was measured using RT-PCR for IFNγ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12α, IL-13, IL-17α, TLR2, TLR4, and TNFα. Endocrine function and body weight were measured to assess any potential impacts of ACTH, insulin, or body weight on immune function; none of the horses had pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. The geriatric horse group had lower concentrations of plasma myeloperoxidase (P = 0.0459) and lower absolute monocyte counts (P = 0.0477); however, the difference in monocyte counts was no longer significant after outliers were removed. Additionally, only two significant differences in cytokine/receptor expression in whole blood were observed. Compared with adult horses, the geriatric horses had increased TNFα expression after in vitro stimulation with heat-inactivated R. equi (P = 0.0224) and had decreased IL-17α expression after PMA/ionomycin stimulation when one outlier was excluded (P = 0.0334). These changes may represent a compensatory mechanism by which geriatric horses could ensure adequate immune responses despite potentially dysfunctional neutrophil activity and/or decreased monocyte counts. Aging may influence equine innate immune function, and additional research is warranted to confirm and further explore these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110207
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aged
  • Geriatric
  • Horse
  • Immune
  • Innate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • General Veterinary


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