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J Immunol. 2008 Feb 1;180(3):1834-42.

Vitamin A deficiency decreases and high dietary vitamin A increases disease severity in the mouse model of asthma.

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  • 1Nutrition Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Human Nutrition Research Center, University of California-Davis, 430 West Health Science Drive, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The Th1/Th2 paradigm has become an important issue in the pathogenesis of asthma, characterized by normal Th1 and elevated Th2 cytokine expression. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) can produce a Th1 bias, whereas high-level dietary vitamin A can promote a Th2 bias. We used the OVA exposure mouse model to determine the contributions of vitamin A-deficient, control (4IU/g), and high-level vitamin A (250-IU/g) diets to the development of allergic airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness. VAD reduced serum IgE and IgG1 responses, pulmonary eosinophilia, and the levels of IL-4 and IL-5 in bronchoalveolar lavage specimens, whereas the 250-IU/g diet increased serum IgE. Also, VAD blocked pulmonary hyperresponsiveness following methacholine challenge while the 250-IU/g diet exacerbated pulmonary hyperresponsiveness. In conclusion, VAD diminished and high-level dietary vitamin A enhanced the development of experimental asthma in this model system. These data suggest that excessive intake of vitamin A may increase the risk or severity of asthma in industrialized countries whereas vitamin A deficiency continues to increase mortality from infectious diseases in developing countries.

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