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Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Aug;69(3):407-15. doi: 10.1017/S0029665110001898.

Potential role of the intestinal microbiota of the mother in neonatal immune education.

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Nutrition and Health Department, Nestlé Research Centre, Nestec Ltd, PO Box 44, 1000 Lausanne 26, Switzerland.


Mucosal dendritic cells are at the heart of decision-making processes that dictate immune reactivity to intestinal microbes. They ensure tolerance to commensal bacteria and a vigorous immune response to pathogens. It has recently been demonstrated that the former involves a limited migration of bacterially loaded dendritic cells from the Peyer's patches to the mesenteric lymph nodes. During lactation, cells from gut-associated lymphoid tissue travel to the breast via the lymphatics and peripheral blood. Here, we show that human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and breast milk cells contain bacteria and their genetic material during lactation. Furthermore, we show an increased bacterial translocation from the mouse gut during pregnancy and lactation and the presence of bacterially loaded dendritic cells in lactating breast tissue. Our observations show bacterial translocation as a unique physiological event, which is increased during pregnancy and lactation. They suggest endogenous transport of intestinally derived bacterial components within dendritic cells destined for the lactating mammary gland. They also suggest neonatal immune imprinting by milk cells containing commensal-associated molecular patterns.

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