Folia Microbiologica

, 48:417 | Cite as

Modulatory effects of selenium and zinc on the immune system

  • M. Ferenčík
  • L. Ebringer
Review

Abstract

Almost all nutrients in the diet play a crucial role in maintaining an “optimal” immune response, and both insufficient and excessive intakes can have negative consequences on the immune status and susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. We summarize the evidence for the importance of two micronutrients, selenium and zinc, and describe the mechanisms through which they affect the immune status and other physiological functions. As a constituent of selenoproteins, selenium is needed for the proper functioning of neutrophils, macrophages, NK cells, T lymphocytes and some other immune mechanisms. Elevated selenium intake may be associated with reduced cancer risk and may alleviate other pathological conditions including oxidative stress and inflammation. Selenium appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting the development of virulence and inhibiting HIV progression to AIDS. It is required for sperm motility and may reduce the risk of miscarriage. Selenium deficiency has been linked to adverse mood states and some findings suggest that selenium deficiency may be a risk factor in cardiovascular diseases. Zinc is required as a catalytic, structural and regulatory ion for enzymes, proteins and transcription factors, and is thus a key trace element in many homeostatic mechanisms of the body, including immune responses. Low zinc ion bioavailability results in limited immunoresistance to infection in aging. Physiological supplementation of zinc for 1–2 months restores immune responses, reduces the incidence of infections and prolongs survival. However, in every single individual zinc supplementation of food should be adjusted to the particular zinc status in views of the great variability in habitat conditions, health status and dietary requirements.

Abbreviations

AIDS

acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

CTL

cytotoxic T lymphocytes

GPx

glutathione peroxidases

HDL

high-density lipoproteins

HIV

human immunodeficiency virus

IFN-γ

interferon γ

IL

interleukin

IS

immune system

NF-κB

nuclear factor κB

NK

natural killer (cells)

oxLDL

oxidized low-density lipoproteins

PGI

vasodilatation-active prostacyclin

ROI

reactive oxygen intermediate

AT

active form of thymulin

TT

total serum thymulin

TDR

thioredoxin reductase

TH1, TH2, TH3 (cells)

helper T lymphocytes

TNF

tumor necrosis factor

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Copyright information

© Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Ferenčík
    • 1
    • 3
  • L. Ebringer
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Immunology Faculty of MedicineComenius UniversityBratislavaSlovakia
  2. 2.Institute of Cell Biology, Faculty of ScienceComenius UniversityBratislavaSlovakia
  3. 3.Institute of NeuroimmunologySlovak Academy of SciencesBratislavaSlovakia

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