Effect of dietary whey protein concentrate on primary and secondary antibody responses in immunized BALB/c mice

Int Immunopharmacol. 2003 Mar;3(3):393-401. doi: 10.1016/S1567-5769(02)00297-7.


Proteins derived from the whey fraction of bovine milk are known to modulate immune responses. We have previously described a rennet whey protein concentrate (WPC) that can boost intestinal tract antibody responses to orally administered T-dependent antigens. In the present study, we investigated the effects of feeding WPC to mice on specific antibody responses to several orally or parenterally administered antigens, including influenza vaccine, diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, poliomyelitis vaccine, ovalbumin and cholera toxin sub-unit. WPC-fed mice produced elevated levels of antigen-specific intestinal tract and serum antibodies against all tested antigens, compared to mice that were fed a standard chow diet. Both primary and secondary intestinal tract antibody responses were elevated by WPC feeding, while only secondary serum responses were increased in WPC-fed mice. Significant up-regulation of intestinal tract antibody was observed within 2 weeks of primary oral immunizations. A period of pre-feeding with WPC, prior to commencement of immunization, did not alter the kinetics or magnitude of immune enhancement. These results identify bovine WPC as a potentially important dietary protein supplement, capable of enhancing humoral immune responses to a range of heterologous antigens.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects*
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Cattle
  • Diet
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Immunity, Mucosal / drug effects
  • Immunization
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Milk Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Whey Proteins


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antigens
  • Milk Proteins
  • Whey Proteins