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Scand J Immunol. 2008 Jun;67(6):553-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.2008.02104.x.

Dietary gluten reduces the number of intestinal regulatory T cells in mice.

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Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark.


It is well established that gluten-free diet reduces the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D) in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, though the mechanism is not known. However, regulatory T cells (Treg) are likely to play an important role. Also, it is known that dietary gluten induces an intestinal increase in the bacterium Lactococcus garvieae, but the importance of this phenomenon for T1D development is doubtful. Our hypothesis is that gluten is responsible for mediating its effect on T1D through the influence on Treg development independent of gluten-induced Lactococci. Four groups of female NOD and BALB/c mice of 3 week old were fed either a gluten-free diet or a standard diet. Lactococcus garvieae or saline water was administered per oral to one of each dietary group. Spleen and Peyer's patches were sampled from BALB/c mice for flow cytometric monitoring of IL-10 and Treg. NOD mice were diagnosed diabetic with blood glucose level >12 mmol/l. Dietary gluten significantly decreased the occurrence of Tregs by 10-15% (P < 0.05) in mice compared with those fed a standard diet. These results and the diabetes incidence were independent of the gluten-induced bacterial factor Lactococci. The prevalence of Treg was 5- to 10-fold more abundant in the Peyer's patches than in the spleen (P < 0.001). In conclusion, dietary gluten has a significant negative quantitative impact on the generation of Treg in mice, independent of gluten-induced Lactococcus garvieae, and Treg are far more abundant in Peyer's patches than in the spleen.

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