Iron deficiency, but not underfeeding reduces the secretion of interferon-gamma by mitogen-activated murine spleen cells

Cytokine. 2010 Dec;52(3):230-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 17.


Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), a cytokine primarily secreted by T and natural killer cells regulates cell-mediated and innate immunity. Iron deficiency, a public health problem in children impairs immune function. To determine whether reduced IFN-γ contributes to impaired immunity, we measured IFN-γ in supernatants of activated (2.5 μg/ml concanavalin A, 50 ng/ml anti-CD3 antibody) spleen cells from control (C), iron-deficient (ID), pair-fed (PF), and iron-replete mice for 3 (R3) and 14 days (R14) (11-12/group). Except for iron content, the low iron (5 ppm) and control (50 ppm) diets had identical composition. Mean indices of iron status after 51 days of feeding were as follows: C=PF≈R14>R3>ID (p<0.01). Iron deficiency, but not pairfeeding reduced IFN-γ concentration in mitogen-treated cells by 30-43% (p<0.05); iron repletion improved it. Reduced IFN-γ was not simply due to differences in IL-12 (IFN-γ inducer), percentage of CD3+ T cells, or impaired cell proliferation because these indices were not always decreased. It was likely due to a defect in T cell activation that leads to IFN-γ gene expression. IFN-γ positively correlated with indicators of iron status, body, and thymus weights (r=0.238-0.472; p<0.05). Reduced IFN-γ secretion during iron deficiency may affect response to infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deficiency Diseases / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitogens / pharmacology*
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / drug effects*


  • Mitogens
  • Interferon-gamma