CD26/dipeptidyl peptidase 4-deficiency alters thymic emigration patterns and leukcocyte subsets in F344-rats age-dependently


M. Stephan, Clinic for Psychosomatic and Psychotherapy, OE7160, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany.


As CD26 (dipeptidyl peptidase 4/DPP4) rapidly truncates incretins N-terminally, including glucagon-like peptide-1, DPP4-inhibitors have been developed for treatment of diabetes type 2. To some extent this is surprising, as CD26/DPP4 is also deeply involved in immune regulation. Long-term pharmacological studies are hampered by off-target inhibition of DPP4-homologues. Therefore, we studied the effects of genetic CD26/DPP4-deficiency by investigating blood, spleen and thymus leucocyte subpopulations of wild-type and CD26-deficient F344-rats at different ages. In young animals at 1 and 3 months of age, there were no differences in leucocyte subsets, while in older animals the T cell composition was changed significantly. From the age of 6 months onwards, reduced numbers of recent thymic emigrants and memory T cells, and consequently an increased amount of naive T cells were observed in CD26-deficient rats. In addition, the architecture of the thymus was altered, as observed by a reduced density of lymphocytes in the medulla. Furthermore, the number of proliferating cells in the thymus was decreased in CD26-deficient rats at a higher age. Moreover, CD26-deficiency resulted in markedly reduced numbers of B cells in later life. Additionally, an age- but not CD26-dependent increase of regulatory T cells and a decrease of natural killer cell numbers were detected in the blood and spleen. Our findings indicate an important role of CD26 in maintaining lymphocyte composition, memory T cell generation and thymic emigration patterns during immunosenescence, with possible implications for using DPP4-inhibitors.