Maternal country of origin, breast milk characteristics and potential influences on immunity in offspring

Clin Exp Immunol. 2010 Dec;162(3):500-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2010.04275.x. Epub 2010 Oct 5.


Breast milk contains pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines with potential to influence immunological maturation in the child. We have shown previously that country of birth is associated with the cytokine/chemokine profile of breast milk. In this study we have investigated how these differences in breast milk affect the cellular response of cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) and intestinal epithelial cells (IECs, cell line HT-29) to microbial challenge. Ninety-five women were included: 30 from Mali in West Africa, 32 Swedish immigrants and 33 native Swedish women. CBMCs or IECs were stimulated in vitro with breast milk, alone or in combination with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or peptidoglycan (PGN). Breast milk in general abrogated the LPS-induced down-regulation of surface CD14 and Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4 expression on CB monocytes, while inhibiting the PGN-induced TLR-2 up-regulation. However, breast milk from immigrant women together with LPS induced a lower CBMC release of interleukin (IL)-6 (P = 0·034) and CXCL-8/IL-8 (P = 0·037) compared with breast milk from Swedish women, while breast milk from Swedish women and Mali women tended to increase the response. The same pattern of CXCL-8/IL-8 release could be seen after stimulation of IECs (HT-29). The lower CBMC and IEC (HT-29) responses to microbial compounds by breast milk from immigrant women could be explained by the fact that breast milk from the immigrant group showed a divergent pro- and anti-inflammatory content for CXCL-8/IL-8, transforming growth factor-β1 and soluble CD14, compared to the other two groups of women. This may have implications for maturation of their children's immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa / ethnology
  • Asia / ethnology
  • Bacterial Infections / ethnology*
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Developing Countries
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / ethnology*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / immunology*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / pathology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Mali
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Peptidoglycan / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / biosynthesis
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / biosynthesis
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics


  • Cytokines
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Peptidoglycan
  • TLR2 protein, human
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4