Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 February 2007
Zn is an essential trace element for all organisms. In human subjects body growth and development is strictly dependent on Zn. The nervous, reproductive and immune systems are particularly influenced by Zn deficiency, as well as by increased levels of Zn. The relationship between Zn and the immune system is complex, since there are four different types of influence associated with Zn. (1) The dietary intake and the resorption of Zn depends on the composition of the diet and also on age and disease status. (2) Zn is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymes influencing various organ functions having a secondary effect on the immune system. (3) Direct effects of Zn on the production, maturation and function of leucocytes. (4) Zn influences the function of immunostimulants used in the experimental systems. Here we summarize all four types of influence on the immune function. Nutritional aspects of Zn, the physiology of Zn, the influence of Zn on enzymes and cellular functions, direct effects of Zn on leucocytes at the cellular and molecular level, Zn-altered function of immunostimulants and the therapeutic use of Zn will be discussed in detail.