J. Nutr. 113: 1415-1421, 1983

Influence Of Dietary Protein Type On The Immune System Of Mice

G. Bounous, L. Létourneau and P.A.L. Kongshavn†

Centre hospitalier universitaire, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada; J1H 5N4 and †Montreal General Hospital Research Institute and Department of Physiology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H3G 1Y6

ABSTRACT - The effect of graded amounts of dietary lactalbumin (L), casein (C), soy (S), wheat (W) protein and Purina rodent chow (stock diet) on the immune responsiveness of C3H/HeN mice has been investigated by measuring the specific humoral immune response to sheep red blood cells (SRBC), and horse red blood cells (HRBC) as well as the nonspecific splenic cell responsiveness to phyto-hemagglutinin (PHA) and concanavalin A (Con A) after stimulation with Myco-bacterium bovis, strain BCG. The nutritional efficiency of these diets was normal and similar. The immune response of mice fed the L diets, was found to be almost five times higher than that of mice fed the corresponding C diets. The humoral immune response of mice fed C, S, and W diets was substantially lower than that of mice fed stock diet, whereas that of mice fed L diet was higher. The above-described immune effect of all tested proteins was obtained at 20 g/100 g concentration with no further increments with 30- and 40 g/100 g protein in the diet. Mitogen responsiveness to PHA and Con A in L diet-fed mice was only slightly higher than that of C diet-fed mice. Little difference in immune responses was noted among mice fed C, S or W protein diets. The principal factor responsible for the observed immune effect does not appear to be the availability or concentration of single essential amino acids but rather the composite effect of the specific amino acid distribution in the protein.