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Nutrition. 2013 May;29(5):772-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.10.006. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

Natural killer cell cytotoxicity is not regulated by folic acid in vitro.

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Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.



Folate supplementation may be associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer and a derangement of immune function. Among the latter, Natural killer (NK) cells are involved in non-MHC-restricted natural immunity against malignant target cells. Abnormalities in NK cell number or function have been associated with a higher cancer risk. The aim of this study was to study in vitro the possible effect of different concentrations of 5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid (5-MTHF) or folic acid on NK cell cytotoxic function, and expression of the stimulatory and inhibitory receptors KIRDL4, KIRDL3, and NKG2D.


Volunteer-derived peripheral mononuclear cells (PBMC) and highly enriched NK cells (95% CD56+ CD16+) were grown in folic acid free-RPMI 1640, supplemented either with folic acid or 5-MTHF (15-100 nM) during 72 h to 96 h.


No differences in the cytolytic activity of PBMC and enriched NK cells were observed. After 96 h of in vitro culture without folate or supplemented with FA or 5-MTHF (30 or 100 nM), there were no changes in the percentage of HPNK receptor-positive cells.


Our data indicate that a high dose of 5-MTHF or folic acid does not influence NK cell function in vitro.

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