Persistent effects of early infant diet and associated microbiota on the juvenile immune system

Gut Microbes. 2015 Jul 4;6(4):284-9. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1067743.


Early infant diet has significant impacts on the gut microbiota and developing immune system. We previously showed that breast-fed and formula-fed rhesus macaques develop significantly different gut microbial communities, which in turn are associated with different immune systems in infancy. Breast-fed animals manifested greater T cell activation and proliferation and harbored robust pools of T helper 17 (TH17) cells. These differences were sustained throughout the first year of life. Here we examine groups of juvenile macaques (approximately 3 to 5 y old), which were breast-fed or formula-fed in infancy. We demonstrate that juveniles breast-fed in infancy maintain immunologic differences into the fifth year of life, principally in CD8(+) memory T cell activation. Additionally, long-term correlation networks show that breast-fed animals maintain persistent relationships between immune subsets that are not seen in formula-fed animals. These findings demonstrate that infant feeding practices have continued influence on immunity for up to 3 to 5 y after birth and also reveal mechanisms for microbial modulation of the immune system.

Keywords: T cell activation; TH17 cells; breast-milk; gut microbiota; rhesus macaque.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Diet / methods*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Infant Formula / administration & dosage
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Milk, Human