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.