Interleukin-2 in human milk: A potential modulator of lymphocyte development in the breastfed infant

Dani Louise Bryan, Kevin D. Forsyth, Robert A. Gibson, Joanna S. Hawkes

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Development of lymphocyte subpopulations and response to antigen exposure will be influenced by the limited ability of neonates to produce cytokines. In the case of cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-2 which are potent T lymphocyte regulators but poorly produced by newborn infants, the supply of cytokines through human milk could alleviate an immunological deficit and potentially aid the maturation of the immune system. We analysed human milk from 52 mothers (15-357 days postpartum) by ELISA to determine levels of aqueous IL-2, as well as production by human milk cells. IL-2 was detectable (>8 pg/mL) in the aqueous phase of 81% of all day 1 samples with no significant difference found in the mean concentration over 3 consecutive days. IL-2 was produced constitutively at detectable levels by 57% of milk cell samples and production was significantly increased by stimulation with Con A (380%). No correlation was found between aqueous and cellular IL-2, however there was a significant correlation between milk aqueous IL-2 and serum IL-2. This is the first report of IL-2 in the aqueous phase of human milk. A supply of exogenous IL-2 in human milk may provide the suckling infant with important immunological signals during a significant stage of T cell development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-293
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 7 Mar 2006


  • Human milk
  • Human milk cells
  • Interleukin-2
  • Serum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry
  • Hematology
  • Molecular Biology

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