Genetic factors play a relevant role in the attainment of longevity because they are involved in cell maintenance systems, including the immune system. In fact, longevity may be correlated with optimal functioning of clonotypic and natural immunity. The aging of the immune system, known as immunosenescence, is the consequence of the continuous attrition caused by chronic antigenic overload. The antigenic load results in the progressive generation of inflammatory responses involved in age-related diseases. Most of the parameters influencing immunosenescence appear to be under genetic control, and immunosenescence fits with the basic assumptions of evolutionary theories of aging, such as antagonistic pleiotropy. In fact, by neutralizing infectious agents the immune system plays a beneficial role until reproduction and parenting. However, by determining chronic inflammation, it can be detrimental later in life, a period largely unforeseen by evolution. In particular, the data coming from the long-lived male population under study show that genetic polymorphisms responsible for a low inflammatory response might result in an increased chance of long lifespan in an environment with a reduced pathogen burden. Such a modern and healthy environment also permits a lower grade of survivable atherogenic inflammatory response.
Candore G, Colonna-Romano G, Balistreri CR, Di Carlo D, Grimaldi MP, Listì F, Nuzzo D, Vasto S, Lio D, Caruso C. Biology of longevity: role of the innate immune system. Rejuvenation Res. 2006 April Immunosenescence Unit, Department of Pathobiology and Biomedical Methodology, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.