Immunomodulatory nutraceuticals have garnered special attention due to their therapeutic potential for the amelioration of many chronic inflammatory conditions. Macrophages are key players in the induction, propagation and resolution of inflammation, actively contributing to the pathogenesis and resolution of inflammatory disorders. As such, this study aimed to investigate the possible therapeutic effects bovine casein derived nutraceuticals exert on macrophage immunological function. Initial studies demonstrated that sodium caseinate induced a M2-like macrophage phenotype that was attributed to the kappa-casein subunit. Kappa-casein primed macrophages acquired a M2-like phenotype that expressed CD206, CD54, OX40L, CD40 on the cell surface and gene expression of Arg-1, RELM-α and YM1, archetypical M2 markers. Macrophages stimulated with kappa-casein secreted significantly reduced TNF-α and IL-10 in response to TLR stimulation through a mechanism that targeted the nuclear factor-κB signal transduction pathway. Macrophage proteolytic processing of kappa-casein was required to elicit these suppressive effects, indicating that a fragment other than C-terminal fragment, glycomacropeptide, induced these modulatory effects. Kappa-casein treated macrophages also impaired T-cell responses. Given the powerful immuno-modulatory effects exhibited by kappa-casein and our understanding of immunopathology associated with inflammatory diseases, this fragment has the potential as an oral nutraceutical and therefore warrants further investigation.
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