Send to

Choose Destination
Immunology. 1995 Feb;84(2):272-7.

Zinc regulates cytokine induction by superantigens and lipopolysaccharide.

Author information

Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University of L├╝beck School of Medicine, Germany.


Zinc is known to be greatly involved in the regulation of immune functions. Pharmacological zinc supplementation, leading to serum zinc concentrations of more than 0.025 mM, has often been suggested to improve immune responses. However, the exact influence of elevated zinc level on immune functions has not yet been investigated. We found that zinc level selectively enhances cytokine induction by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in a concentration-dependent fashion: as little as 0.0125 mM supplemental zinc led to nearly 50% elevated interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) levels both in polymorphonuclear cells (PBMC) and whole-blood cultures. The secretion of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) could be increased more than 10-fold by 0.1 mM zinc. This could not be observed during stimulation with phytohaemagglutin (PHA). In contrast, zinc levels concentration-dependently down-regulated monocyte activation caused by the superantigens, staphylococcal enterotoxins A and E (SEA, SEE, more than 90% down-regulation by 0.1 mM zinc), the Mycoplasma arthritidis-derived superantigen (MAS), but not toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1), while T-cell response remained unaffected. This was not the result of chemical degradation of the superantigens. We assume that zinc concentration regulates interactions between SEA, SEE and MAS, but not TSST-1 and their major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-binding sites. Our data demonstrate that zinc levels control the secretion of IFN-gamma and monokines after both LPS and superantigen challenge within a clinically relevant range of concentrations. This reveals new perspectives and indications for zinc supplementation and also indicates potential risks of therapeutic application of zinc.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center