Acquired immunity to gastrointestinal nematodes reduces during late pregnancy and lactation which is known as periparturient relaxation of immunity (PPRI). Protein supplementation reduces the degree of PPRI in a rat model re-infected with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, but the underlying molecular mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Here, we hypothesized that protein supplementation will enhance T helper type 2 immunity (Th2) in the lung and small intestine. Nulliparous Sprague-Dawley rats were given a primary infection of N. brasiliensis prior to mating and restrictedly fed diets with either low protein (LP) or high protein (HP) during pregnancy and lactation. Dams were secondary infected with N. brasiliensis on day 2 post-parturition, and histology and gene expression were analysed for tissue samples collected at days 5, 8 and 11. Genes related to Th2 immunity in the lung, Retnla, Il13 and Mmp12, and in the intestine, Retnlb, were upregulated in HP dams compared to LP dams, which indicates the effect of dietary protein on Th2 immunity. HP dams also had increased splenic CD68+ macrophage populations compared to LP dams following secondary infection, suggesting enhanced immunity at a cellular level. Our data assist to define strategic utilization of nutrient supply in mammals undergoing reproductive and lactational efforts.
- Dietary protein
- Gastrointestinal nematodes
- Nippostrongylus brasiliensis
- Periparturient relaxation of immunity
- T helper type 2 immunity