The effect of β-carotene supplementation on the immune function of blood monocytes from healthy male nonsmokers

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      Although there is strong epidemiologic evidence that diets rich in carotenoids such as β-carotene are associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, the cellular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain unknown. This article describes the effect of dietary β-carotene supplementation on both the expression of functionally associated surface molecules on human monocytes and on the secretion of the cytokine tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) by monocytes, all of which are involved in the initiation and regulation of immune responses involved in tumor surveillance. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study was undertaken in which 25 healthy, adult male nonsmokers were randomly assigned to receive β-carotene (15 mg daily) or placebo for 26 days, followed by the alternative treatment for a further 26 days. The expression of functionally related monocyte surface molecules was quantified by flow cytometry, and ex vivo secretion of TNF-α was quantified by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, before and after each treatment period. After dietary supplementation there were significant increases in plasma levels of β-carotene and in the percentages of monocytes expressing the major histocompatibility complex class II molecule HLA-DR and the adhesion molecules intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and leukocyte function-associated antigen-3. In addition, the ex vivo TNF-α secretion by blood monocytes was significantly increased after supplementation. These findings suggest that moderate increases in the dietary intake of β-carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses within a relatively short period of time, providing a potential mechanism for the anticarcinogenic properties attributed to β-carotene.


      FITC (fluorescein isothiocyanate), HLA (human leukocyte antigen), HEPES (N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N-2-ethanesulfonic acid), HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), ICAM-1 (intercellular adhesion molecule-1), LFA (leukocyte function-associated antigen), MEM (minimal essential medium), MHC (major histocompatibility complex), PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid), TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α)
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