Dietary vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency in young Lewis rats results in a reduction of T lymphocyte numbers and defects of cellular immunocompetence. In vitro studies of thymic epithelial (TE) cells, responsible for inducing T lymphocyte differentiation, revealed that maintenance on a vitamin B6 deficient diet for 2 weeks resulted in a severe defect in TE cell function. When the deficient animals were returned to a normal diet, TE cell function was restored. Exposure of lymphoid precursors from neonatally thymectomized or vitamin B6-deficient donors to normal TE monolayers resulted in their conversion to functional T lymphocytes, as measured by their response in MLR and to mitogens. However, TE monolayers from vitamin B6-deficient animals were unable to effect such a maturation of T lymphocytes. Therefore, it is suggested that the defect in cellular immunocompetence following this dietary deficiency is due, at least in part, to the inability of TE cells to effect the differentiation of T lymphocyte precursors to functional T lymphocytes. The dietary deficiency does not, however, impair lymphoid precursors, which can be stimulated to further differentiation by exposure to normal TE cell monolayers.
This work was supported by United States Public Health Service Grant CA-19346.