Effects of purified bovine whey factors on cellular immune functions in ruminants

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 1997 May;56(1-2):85-96. doi: 10.1016/s0165-2427(96)05732-7.


The immunomodulatory properties of bovine milk and whey have long been documented. The recent advance of whey protein fractionation technology has now allowed us to study the immunobiological properties of some highly purified components of whey, with a view to exploiting their possible industrial and biomedical applications. The effects of fractionated bovine whey proteins on cellular immune responses were therefore examined using a panel of in vitro assays. Both lactoferrin (LF) and lactoperoxidase (LP) were found to inhibit proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production of ovine blood lymphocytes in response to mitogenic stimulation. However, their effects in a combined fraction or in whey protein concentrate (WPC) were either diminished or eliminated. LF and LP had no effect on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced ovine blood lymphocyte proliferation, production of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) by ovine bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) macrophages, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class II antigen expression by ovine BAL macrophages and bovine natural killer (NK) cell activity. However, alpha-lactalbumin (alpha LA) exhibited an enhancing effect on IL-1 beta production. It is noteworthy that as bovine whey fractions become progressively more purified, their modulatory effects on the immune response also become more clear-cut. The effects of LF, LP and alpha LA may be eliminated by their combination in whey or by other minor components of whey. Further investigation of industrial applications for whey proteins of high purity is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / isolation & purification
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / biosynthesis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / drug effects
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Milk Proteins / immunology
  • Milk Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Milk Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Sheep


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Milk Proteins