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Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00016

Cytokines and soluble receptors in breast milk as enhancers of oral tolerance development

  • 1Dalhousie University, Canada

The postpartum period is an important window during which environmental factors can shape the life-long health of the infant. This time period often coincides with substantial milk consumption either in the form of breast milk or from cow’s milk sources, such as infant formulas. Although breast milk is the most beneficial source of nutrients for infants during the first six months after birth, its role in regulating food allergy development, through regulation of oral tolerance, is still controversial. Breast milk contains several factors that can impact mucosal immune function, including immune cells, antibodies, microbiota, oligosaccharides, cytokines, and soluble receptors. However, there is considerable variation in the assessed levels of cytokines and soluble receptors between studies and across the lactation period. Most of these cytokines and soluble receptors are absent, or only found in limited quantities, in commercial baby formulas. Differences in content of these pluripotent factors, which impact on both the mother and the neonate, could contribute to the controversy surrounding the role of breast milk regulating oral tolerance. This review highlights current knowledge about the importance of cytokines and soluble receptors in breast milk on the development of oral tolerance and tolerance-related disorders. Understanding the mechanisms by which such milk components might promote oral tolerance could aid in the development of improved strategies for allergy prevention.

Keywords: food allergy, sCD14, soluble CD14, TLR2, mucosal immunology, intestinal barrier function, Regulatory T (Treg) cells

Received: 23 Oct 2018; Accepted: 04 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Clinton Mathias, Western New England University, United States

Reviewed by:

Claudia Volpi, University of Perugia, Italy
Sin-Hyeog Im, Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea  

Copyright: © 2019 Dawod and Marshall. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jean S. Marshall, Dalhousie University, Halifax, B3H 4R2, Nova Scotia, Canada, jean.marshall@dal.ca