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Br J Nutr. 2013 Aug 28;110(3):509-14. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512005351. Epub 2013 Feb 18.

Riboflavin deprivation inhibits macrophage viability and activity - a study on the RAW 264.7 cell line.

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Department of Ergonomics and Exercise Physiology, Faculty of Health Science, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Grzegorzecka 20, 31-531 Krakow, Poland.


Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, as a precursor of the coenzymes FAD and FMN, has an indirect influence on many metabolic processes and determines the proper functioning of several systems, including the immune system. In the human population, plasma riboflavin concentration varies from 3·1 nM (in a moderate deficiency, e.g. in pregnant women) to 10·4 nM (in healthy adults) and 300 nM (in cases of riboflavin supplementation). The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of riboflavin concentration on the activity and viability of macrophages, i.e. on one of the immunocompetent cell populations. The study was performed on the murine monocyte/macrophage RAW 264.7 cell line cultured in medium with various riboflavin concentrations (3·1, 10·4, 300 and 531 nM). The results show that riboflavin deprivation has negative effects on both the activity and viability of macrophages and reduces their ability to generate an immune response. Signs of riboflavin deficiency developed in RAW 264.7 cells within 4 d of culture in the medium with a low riboflavin concentration (3·1 nM). In particular, the low riboflavin content reduced the proliferation rate and enhanced apoptotic cell death connected with the release of lactate dehydrogenase. The riboflavin deprivation impaired cell adhesion, completely inhibited the respiratory burst and slightly impaired phagocytosis of the zymosan particles. In conclusion, macrophages are sensitive to riboflavin deficiency; thus, a low riboflavin intake in the diet may affect the immune system and may consequently decrease proper host immune defence.

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