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Cytokine. 2007 Nov;40(2):105-14. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Protein-energy malnutrition decreases the expression of TLR-4/MD-2 and CD14 receptors in peritoneal macrophages and reduces the synthesis of TNF-alpha in response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in mice.

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Experimental Haematology Laboratory, Department of Clinical and Toxicological Analyses, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil.


Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) modifies resistance to infection, impairing a number of physiological processes, including hematopoiesis. In this study, we examined a few aspects of the inflammatory response to LPS in a model of PEM. We evaluated the cellularity of the blood, bone marrow and spleen, as well as phagocytic, fungicidal and spreading activity, the production in vivo and in vitro of TNF-alpha, IL-1alpha and IL-6, and the expression of CD14 and TLR-4/MD-2 receptors in macrophages. Two-month-old male Swiss mice were submitted to PEM with a low-protein diet containing 4% protein as compared to 20% protein in the control diet. When the experimental group had attained about 20% loss of their original body weight, they were used in the experiments. Malnourished animals presented anemia, leucopenia and severe reduction in bone marrow, spleen and peritoneal cavity cellularity. The production of TNF-alpha, IL-1alpha and IL-6 stimulated in vivo with LPS and the production of IL-6 in bone marrow cells cultured with LPS and the production of TNF-alpha in bone marrow, spleen and peritoneal cells cultured with LPS were significantly lower in malnourished animals. The expression of CD14 and TLR-4/MD-2 receptors was found to be significantly lower in macrophages of malnourished animals. These findings suggest that malnourished animals present a deficient response to LPS. The lower expression of the CD14 and TLR-4/MD-2 receptors may be partly responsible for the immunodeficiency observed in the malnourished mice. These data lead us to infer that the nutritional state interferes with the activation of macrophages and with the capacity to mount an immune response.

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