Aim: The effects of intestinal bifidobacteria on the development of immunity in early life were explored.
Methods: Neonatal SD rats born and housed under strict barrier systems were fed from birth with sufficient antibiotics (bifidobacteria minimisation group) or supplemented daily with 1x10(10) colony-forming units of live Bifidobacterium longum (bifidobacteria supplementation group). Relevant indices of immune development were determined at one, three and six weeks old.
Results: Compared to the control group, minimisation of the intestinal bifidobacteria delayed maturation of dendritic cells in Peyer's Patches and the development of T cells in the thymus, increased IL-4 secretion in the plasma, down-regulated IL-12, IL-10 mRNA and the interferon-gamma/IL-4 mRNA ratio in intestinal mucosa, decreased interferon-gamma mRNA in cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and reduced immunoglobulin-M production in cultured PBMCs. Conversely, supplementation with bifidobacteria promoted dendritic cell maturation in Peyer's Patches, up-regulated IL-12, IL-10, interferon-gamma mRNA and the interferon-gamma/IL-4 ratio in intestinal mucosa, increased interferon-gamma gene expression in cultured PBMCs, and raised immunoglobulin-M secretion in cultured PBMCs.
Conclusions: Intestinal bifidobacteria could promote the maturation of dendritic cells and its expression of IL-12 locally in the gut, influence the development of T cells in the thymus, favour the development of T-helper cell type 1 response by increasing the local and systemic expression of interferon-gamma and ensure the intestinal regulatory T cell response by promoting the local expression of IL-10. In addition, they enhance antibody synthesis by PBMCs, thereby affecting the development of both the gut and systemic immunity in early life.