NK cells

Vitamin A deficiency reduces the number of circulating NK cells and impairs NK cell cytolytic activity. NK cells play a role in anti-viral and anti-tumour immunity that is not major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted, and they are involved in the regulation of immune responses. In experimental animal models, vitamin A deficiency reduced the number of NK cells in the spleen (Nauss and Newberne, 1985; Bowman et al., 1990) and peripheral blood (Zhao et al., 1994). The cytolytic activity of NK cells was reduced by vitamin A deficiency (Zhao et al., 1994). In ageing Lewis rats, marginal vitamin A status reduced the number of NK cells in peripheral blood and the cytolytic activity of NK cells (Dawson et al., 1999). There have been few studies of vitamin A status and NK cells in humans. Children with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) who received two doses of oral vitamin A (60 mg retinol equivalents (RE)) had large increases in the number of circulating NK cells, compared with children who received placebo (Hussey et al., 1996).

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