About this Research Topic
Non-communicable diseases associated with immune system dysfunction are an increasing challenge for 21st century medicine. There is growing evidence that predisposition to many such conditions can originate during early-life ‘programming events’. This term refers to critical points of developmental plasticity where changes in environmental factors can have long-term effects on physiological development, including the development of the immune system. From birth, the neonatal immune system develops rapidly in response to external stimuli, primarily from the intestinal microbiota and nutrition, and this pattern of development appears essential in adult immune functionality and competence. Nutritional components of the early diet including antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, folate and other vitamins can directly influence immunity by shifting the structure and/or function(s) of different immune cell populations and of hematopoietic organs, and also by modulating gene expression and various signalling pathways in immune cells that contribute to homeostasis. In addition, non-digestible oligosaccharides and their metabolites can drive differential immune development indirectly through modification of both the composition and the metabolic activity of the gut microbiota. Although current literature indicates the existence of a dynamic interplay between the immune system, nutrition and the intestinal microbiota, the molecular interactions and pathways involved in this cross-talk are complex and poorly characterized.
The adult microbiota is largely stable and even substantial interventions have limited long term impact on the composition and biochemical activity of the microbiome. However, sustained shifts in microbial ecosystems can occur in early life, especially during the neonatal period and weaning. This can be in response to nutritional factors, such as malnutrition and breastfeeding, but also in response to events such as caesarean delivery and antibiotics. These shifts in the patterns of early microbial colonization can subsequently result in changes in the development and functions of the host immune system and are likely to lead to developmental imprinting. Thus, the dynamic evolution of the gut microbiota during early-life may represent a window of opportunity in which to influence the development of immunity through nutritional interventions, or the administration of specific bacterial strains. A better understanding of how nutritional programming of the immune system and the role of the gut microbiota in this programming may inform dietary strategies in infants with the potential to reduce the burden of inflammatory-associated disorders in adulthood.
In this Research Topic, we will gather a collection of Original Research, Reviews and Opinion articles that cover the following topics:
1. Prenatal and postnatal nutritional leading to shifts in the development and functions of the immune system and the role of the gut microbiota in these shifts.
2. Dietary strategies to modulate microbiota maturation in early life that have an impact on immunity in infants.
3. Mechanisms of nutritional programming of the immune system and the gut microbiota in the context of influencing immunity.
4. Evidence of host immune cell-microbiota cross-talk during early-life and its role in contributing to the development of inflammatory conditions such as obesity, allergy and autoimmunity, in later life.
Keywords: early nutrition;, microbiota, immune development, developmental programming
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.