Human Breast Milk Promotes the Immunomodulatory Function of Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in the Neonatal Rat Intestine

J Probiotics Health. 2019;7(1):210. doi: 10.35248/2329-8901.19.7.210. Epub 2019 Jul 26.


Background and objective: Breast milk has many growth-promoting and immune-active components, including transforming growth factor-β, lactoferrin, lysozyme, immunoglobulin A, and prebiotics such as the human milk oligosaccharides. Treatment with Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 (LR), a probiotic with immunomodulatory functions, significantly increases regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the intestinal mucosa of newborn suckling rats. In humans, treatment with LR of infants with colic reduces crying optimally if the infants are breast-fed. Therefore, we examined the effects of human breast milk (HBM) on LR-associated immune modulation.

Methods: Newborn rats were divided into 8 feeding groups, including dam-fed ± LR (106 CFU/kg bw/day, daily), formula-fed ± LR, formula with 20% (v/v) HBM-fed ± LR, and HBM-fed ± LR. Pups were fed by gavage from d1 to d3 of age. Subsequently, we measured intestinal immune cell profiles, including Tregs and tolerogenic dendritic cells (tDCs) by flow cytometry. We also measured inflammatory cytokine and chemokine levels of interleukin (IL)-1β and cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattratant (CINC)-1 in intestinal tissue lysates by ELISA.

Results and conclusion: (1) Formula feeding increased intestinal CD3+ T cells, CD4+ helper T (TH) cells and CD11c+ DCs, pro-inflammatory effects which were reversed by HBM. (2) When comparing HBM-fed with formula-fed newborns, HBM supplementation produced a lower percentage of CD4+ TH cells and a higher percentage of CD8+ (cytotoxic) T cells, while reducing protein levels of IL-1β and CINC-1 in the intestine. (3) Probiotic LR feeding maximally stimulated the percentage of intestinal Tregs and tDCs when the pups were fed HBM. In conclusion, HBM reduced formula-induced intestinal gut immune activation, and the addition of LR further promoted immune tolerance.

Keywords: Dendritic cell; Formula; Human breast milk; Intestine; Lactobacillus reuteri; Neonatal rats; Probiotic; T cell.