The influence of a low protein (6%) diet on the immunologic function of NZB mice was investigated. The low protein intake was associated with decreased weight gain in both male and female NZB mice. The mice fed the low protein diet did not develop splenomegaly, which generally occurs by 7 to 10 months of age in NZB mice fed a normal amount of protein. Further, 7- to 10-month-old NZB mice fed the low protein (6%) diet, maintained: 1) more vigorous antibody production to sheep red blood cells; 2) greater capacity to produce graft-vs-host reactions, and 3) more vigorous cell-mediated “killer” cell immunity after immunization against DBA/2 mastocytoma cells than did NZB mice on a normal (22%) protein diet. The decrease of PHA and Con A response which normally occurs with aging in NZB mice was abrogated to some degree by protein restriction. However, response to LPS, which also declines with age in NZB mice, did not appear to be influenced by diet. The low protein diet inhibited the rise of IgG1 levels, prevented the increase of IgM levels and the fall of IgA levels. The low protein diet, although delaying the onset of hemolytic anemia, did not prevent the development of this autoimmune disease and did not significantly prolong life span.

These findings tend to dissociate the progressive deficit of T cell immunity in NZB mice from the genetically determined propensity to develop autoimmune hemolytic anemia. The findings further indicate that it is not yet possible to generalize concerning the relationship of nutrition to deficiencies in immunologic function.

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