Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 administration induces Foxp3 T regulatory cells in human peripheral blood: potential role for myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells

Gut. 2012 Mar;61(3):354-66. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2011-300936. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Background: Intestinal homoeostasis is dependent on immunological tolerance to the microbiota.

Objective: To (1) determine if a probiotic could induce Foxp3 T cells in humans; (2) to elucidate the molecular mechanisms, which are involved in the induction of Foxp3 T cells by human dendritic cells.

Design: Cytokine secretion and Foxp3 expression were assessed in human volunteers following Bifidobacterium infantis feeding. Monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDCs), myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs) and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) were incubated in vitro with B. infantis and autologous lymphocytes. Transcription factor expression, costimulatory molecule expression, cytokine secretion, retinoic acid and tryptophan metabolism were analysed.

Results: Volunteers fed B. infantis displayed a selective increase in secretion of interleukin (IL)-10 and enhanced Foxp3 expression in peripheral blood. In vitro, MDDCs, mDCs and pDCs expressed indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and secreted IL-10, but not IL-12p70, in response to B. infantis. MDDC and mDC IL-10 secretion was Toll-like receptor (TLR)-2/6 dependent, while pDC IL-10 secretion was TLR-9 dependent. In addition, MDDCs and mDCs expressed RALDH2, which was TLR-2 and DC-SIGN dependent. B. infantis-stimulated MDDCs, mDCs and pDCs induced T cell Foxp3 expression. TLR-2, DC-SIGN and retinoic acid were required for MDDC and mDC induction of Foxp3 T cells, while pDCs required indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase.

Conclusions: B. infantis administration to humans selectively promotes immunoregulatory responses, suggesting that this microbe may have therapeutic utility in patients with inflammatory disease. Cross-talk between multiple pattern-recognition receptors and metabolic pathways determines the innate and subsequent T regulatory cell response to B. infantis. These findings link nutrition, microbiota and the induction of tolerance within the gastrointestinal mucosa.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bifidobacterium / immunology*
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / blood*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / immunology
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Tretinoin / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • Interleukin-10
  • Tretinoin