Nutritional status has a major impact on the immune system. Probiotic effects ascribed to fermented dairy products arise not only from whole microorganisms but also from metabolites (peptides, exopolysaccharides) produced during the fermentation. We recently demonstrated the immunomodulating capacity of kefir in a murine model. We now aimed at studying the immunomodulating capacity in vivo of the products derived from milk fermentation by kefir microflora (PMFKM) on the gut. BALB/c mice received the PMFKM for 2, 5 or 7 consecutive days. IgA+ and IgG+ cells were determined on histological slices of the small and large intestine. IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, IFNγ and TNFα were determined in the gut, intestinal fluid and blood serum. IL-6 was also determined in the supernatant of a primary culture of small intestine epithelial cells challenged with PMFKM. PMFKM up-regulated IL-6 secretion, necessary for B-cell terminal differentiation to IgA secreting cells in the gut lamina propria. There was an increase in the number of IgA+ cells in the small and large intestine. The increase in the number of IgA+ cells was accompanied by an increase in the number of IL-4+, IL-10+ and IL-6+ cells in the small intestine. Effects of PMFKM in the large intestine were less widely apparent than the ones observed at the small intestine lamina propria. All cytokines that increased in the small intestine lamina propria, also did so in blood serum, reflecting here the immunostimulation achieved in the gut mucosa. We observed that the PMFKM induced a mucosal response and it was able to up and down regulate it for protective immunity, maintaining the intestinal homeostasis, enhancing the IgA production at both the small and large intestine level. The opportunity exists then to manipulate the constituents of the lumen of the intestine through dietary means, thereby enhancing the health status of the host.
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