The significance of the essential trace element zinc for immune function has been known for several decades. Zinc deficiency affects immune cells, resulting in altered host defense, increased risk of inflammation, and even death. The micronutrient zinc is important for maintenance and development of immune cells of both the innate and adaptive immune system. A disrupted zinc homeostasis affects these cells, leading to impaired formation, activation, and maturation of lymphocytes, disturbed intercellular communication via cytokines, and weakened innate host defense via phagocytosis and oxidative burst. This review outlines the connection between zinc and immunity by giving a survey on the major roles of zinc in immune cell function, and their potential consequences in vivo.
Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Cytokines; Immune system; Innate immunity; Zinc.
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