Zinc supplementation of pregnant rats with adequate zinc nutriture suppresses immune functions in their offspring

Rubhana Raqib, Mohammad Bakhtiar Hossain, Shannon L. Kelleher, Charles B. Stephensen, Bo Lönnerdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The knowledge about consequences of marginal zinc (Zn) deficiency and Zn supplementation during pregnancy on immune function in the offspring is limited. The aim of this study was to examine whether effects of mild Zn deficiency and subsequent Zn supplementation during pregnancy persist after weaning and affect immune function of the offspring. Adult female rats were fed a Zn-adequate diet (ZC, n = 8) or a Zn-deficient diet (ZD, n = 8) from preconception through lactation. Pregnant rats were supplemented with either Zn (1.5 mg Zn in water) or placebo (water) 3 times/wk throughout pregnancy. Pups were orally immunized with cholera toxin and bovine serum albumin-dinitrophenol (DNP) 3 times at weekly intervals and killed 1 wk after the last dose. Proliferation and cytokine responses in lymphocytes from Payer's patches and spleen, and antigen specific antibodies in serum were studied. Zn supplementation of ZD dams led to enhanced lymphocyte proliferation and IFN-γ responses in pups ZDZ+. In contrast, Zn supplementation of ZC dams suppressed these responses in pups ZCZ+. Total and DNP-specific IgA responses were lower in pups of the Zn-deficient group compared with the Zn-adequate group. Relative thymus weight was greater in the pups (ZDZ-) of ZD placebosupplemented dams compared with the other groups at 31 d of age. Prepregnancy and early in utero Zn deficiency affected IgA responses in pups that could not be restored with Zn supplementation during pregnancy. Zn supplementation of ZC dams induced immunosuppressive effects in utero that may also be mediated through milk and persist in the offspring after weaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1037-1042
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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