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European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 129–138 | Cite as

Formula-feeding is associated with shift towards Th1 cytokines

  • Beate Winkler
  • Julia Aulenbach
  • Thomas Meyer
  • Armin Wiegering
  • Matthias Eyrich
  • Paul-Gerhardt Schlegel
  • Verena WiegeringEmail author
Original Contribution

Abstract

Purpose

Breast-feeding (BF) versus formula-feeding (FF) may be a factor for the development and differentiation of T-cell subsets and cytokine production in infancy and childhood. We therefore investigated T-cell subpopulations and their cytokine production by flow cytometry as well as cytokine levels in serum samples in breast-fed versus formula-fed infants and children.

Methods

Heparinised blood was taken from 191 healthy infants and children. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stimulated with phorbol-mystriate-acetate and ionomycin in the presence of brefeldin. T-cell subsets and cytokines were determined by flow cytometry. Furthermore, serum concentrations of IFNγ and IL4 were measured using ELISA. An IFNγ/IL4 ratio was calculated to estimate the Th1/Th2 balance.

Results

Children who were formula-fed show higher numbers of memory T and T helper cells. After stimulation, the number of IFNγ-positive memory T-cells was increased up to the age of 6 years. Breast-fed infants show higher percentages of IL4-positive T helper cells. At ELISA determination, formula-fed children showed higher IFNγ levels than breast-fed children, while IL4 levels did not differ. The IFNγ/IL4 ratio (FACS and ELISA) was elevated in formula-fed infants and children.

Conclusion

This systematic analysis of cytokine profiles during childhood in dependency of BF allows a better understanding of immune maturation and demonstrates the influence of early feeding on immune function throughout childhood, even after cessation of BF. FF induces a shift towards Th1 cytokines in children. This may have an influence on the development of autoimmune disease in later life.

Keywords

Breast-feeding Cytokines Th1/Th2 Flow cytometry 

Abbreviations

BF

Breast-fed children

CD

Cluster of differentiation

DC

Dendritic cells

FCS

Foetal calf serum

FF

Formula-fed children

FITC

Fluorescein isothiocyanate

HLA

Human leucocyte antigen

IFN

Interferon

PBMCs

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells

PE

Phycoerythrin

PMA

Phorbol-mystriate-acetate

TGF

Transforming growth factor

Th1

T helper cell type 1

Treg

Regulatory T-cells

yr

Year

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the staff of the Outpatient Department as well as the technical staff of the stem cell processing unit at the University Children’s Hospital, Wuerzburg, for their excellent and dedicated patient care. This work was supported in part by an IZKF grant (to VW) and in part by the Tour of the Hope Foundation (to PGS).

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beate Winkler
    • 1
  • Julia Aulenbach
    • 1
  • Thomas Meyer
    • 2
  • Armin Wiegering
    • 2
  • Matthias Eyrich
    • 1
  • Paul-Gerhardt Schlegel
    • 1
  • Verena Wiegering
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Paediatric Haematology/Oncology and Stem Cell TransplantationUniversity Children’s HospitalWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Paediatric Surgery Unit, Department of General, Visceral, Vascular and Paediatric SurgeryUniversity of WuerzburgWürzburgGermany

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