Immunomodulatory effects of dietary protein during Nippostrongylus brasiliensis re-infection in lactating rats
Periparturient relaxation of immunity (PPRI) to secondary infection with nematodes is believed to have a nutritional basis due to differential partitioning of scarce nutrient resources, particularly protein, to reproductive rather than immune functions. At times of protein scarcity, an increase in protein supply has been reported to assuage this phenomenon. The Nippostrongylus brasiliensis reinfected lactating rat model is now being utilized to investigate the immune reactions underlying the modifying role of dietary protein on PPRI. Herein, we demonstrate that lactating rats reinfected with N. brasiliensis under high protein (HP) dietary conditions exhibit decreased worm burdens and reduced colon egg counts compared to their low protein (LP) counterparts. These reductions correlated with increased mastocytosis and greater goblet cell hyperplasia. Additionally, the local antibody profile revealed that HP reinfected lactating rats developed a stronger antigen specific IgG2b response earlier in infection in comparison with their LP counterparts. Our study provides evidence that increased dietary protein content reduces the PPRI to N. brasiliensis re-infection in the lactating rat through improved mucosal immune responses.