Lactic acid bacteria are claimed to have immunomodulating effects. Stimulation as well as suppression of T helper (Th)1 mediated immune responses, have been described for various strains. Experiments involving Lactobacillus casei Shirota (LcS) detected mainly enhancement of innate immune responses and promotion of Th1 mediated immune reactivity. To confirm and further investigate modulation of Th1 responses and development of autoimmune disease by LcS, the consequences of oral administration of LcS were assessed in several experiments. The effect of LcS varied between the different models. No modulation was found in the mitogen-induced cell proliferation and cytokine release assays in mesenteric lymph nodes of Wistar rats. LcS inhibited the Th1 mediated immune response in an adapted murine Local Lymph Node Assay (LLNA) in BALB/c mice, whereas experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in Lewis rats was aggravated. These varying effects on Th1 responses indicate that beneficial as well as harmful effects on immune related disorders could occur after LcS consumption. Since microarray analysis is suggested to be more sensitive and predictive than functional tests, gene expression profiling was included as an alternative endpoint in the testing of immunomodulation. The detected gene expression profiles did not reflect the effects of LcS on the immune system. Microarray analysis may therefore have no more predictive value than immune function assays when investigating immunomodulation by probiotics. To gain further insight into effects of probiotics on immune function, experiments including cytokine assays and gene expression analysis combined with disease models could be useful
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