Background Mild dietary zinc (Zn) deficiency is widespread in human populations, but its influence on recovery after acute illness is poorly understood. In a mouse model of abdominal sepsis (cecal ligation puncture), systemic immune responses and liver metabolism were monitored in early (24 h) and late (5 d) phases, under control conditions and during mild dietary Zn restriction. Methods Mice were fed diets adequate or marginally deficient (ZM) in Zn (30 versus 10 mg zinc/kg diet) for 4 wk, before undergoing laparotomy alone (nonseptic control) or cecal ligation puncture (septic). Results Among nonseptic mice, the ZM state was not associated with differences in inflammation or metabolic responses. Among septic mice, mortality did not differ between the zinc adequate and ZM groups. In the early phase, the ZM state amplified increases in plasma interleukin (IL) 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and IL-10, while dampening the interferon gamma response. In the late phase, subtle but significant ZM-associated increases were observed in plasma IL-5 and interferon gamma levels and hepatic protein synthesis, the latter of which appeared to be mammalian target of rapamycin independent and was associated with increased hepatic tumor necrosis factor alpha messenger RNA content. Conclusions Without increasing mortality, the ZM state is associated with a more disordered acute systemic inflammatory response and persistence or enhancement of acute phase responses within the liver parenchyma.
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