We have utilized an experimental model of human zinc deficiency for study of cytokines production by TH1 and TH2 cells. Additionally, we determined ratios of CD4+ to CD8+ and CD4+ CD45RA+ to CD4+CD45RO+ cells and percentages of CD73+ T cytolytic cells in the CD8+ subset. The data were collected during baseline, at the end of the zinc-restricted period, and following zinc repletion. Our results showed that functions of TH1 cells, as evidenced by production of interferon-gamma, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, were decreased, whereas functions of TH2 cells (production of IL-4, IL-6, and IL-10) were unaffected by zinc deficiency. Thus an imbalance between TH1 and TH2 cells resulted because of zinc deficiency in humans. Our studies also showed that zinc may be required for regeneration of new CD4+ T lymphocytes and maintenance of T cytolytic cells. We conclude that an imbalance between TH1 and TH2 cells, decreased recruitment of T naive cells, and decreased percentage of T cytolytic cells may account for decreased cell-mediated immune functions in zinc-deficient subjects.
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