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J Infect Dis. 2000 Sep;182 Suppl 1:S97-S102.

Retinol and retinol-binding protein: gut integrity and circulating immunoglobulins.

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  • 1Institute of Cancer Researc, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Vitamin A (retinol) is required to maintain immunity and epithelial turnover and is a key micronutrient needed for combating infection. Vitamin A actions on the immune system are diverse and cannot be accounted for by a single effect or mechanism. The actions of retinol in maintaining gut integrity in humans and immunoglobulin levels in mice was investigated. For 30 children, performance on the lactulose/mannitol test, a test commonly used to assess intestinal barrier function, was inversely correlated (P=.012) with serum retinol concentrations. Thus, children with lower serum retinol, and presumably poorer vitamin A nutritional status, are more likely to have impaired intestinal integrity. Knockout mice that have impairments in plasma retinol transport have circulating immunoglobulin levels that are half those observed in matched wild type mice. No differences were observed in B and T cell populations present in spleen, thymus, and bone marrow.

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