The dietary form of choline during lactation affects maternal immune function in rats

  • N. S. Dellschaft
  • C. Richard
  • E. D. Lewis
  • S. Goruk
  • R. L. Jacobs
  • J. M. Curtis
  • C. J. Field
Original Contribution



The present study was designed to determine the effects of both choline form and availability on maternal immune function during lactation.


Sprague–Dawley rats were randomized to one of the three diets 24–48 h before parturition and fed ad libitum until 21 days postnatal: 1 g/kg choline as free choline (C, n = 11), the current form, and amount of choline in commercial diets; 1 g/kg choline as phosphatidylcholine (PC1, n = 11); or 2.5 g/kg choline as PC (PC2.5, n = 8). Choline metabolites in offspring stomach contents were quantified. At 21 days, lymphocytes from mothers’ mesenteric lymph nodes and spleens were isolated and phenotypes and ex vivo cytokine production after mitogen exposure were determined.


There was a higher proportion of choline and a lower proportion of lyso-PC in stomach contents (representing dam’s milk) of C pups compared to PC1. In the mesenteric lymph nodes, feeding PC1 compared to C led to a higher IL-2 production after Concanavalin A (ConA) stimulation and a higher proportion of T cells (CD3+) and a lower proportion of B cells [immunoglobulin (Ig)κ, CD45RA+, and IgM+; P < 0.05]. Splenocytes from the PC1 group produced more IL-6 and TNF-α after lipopolysaccharides stimulation compared to C (P < 0.05). Splenocytes from the PC2.5 group produced more IL-2 and IL-6 after ConA stimulation compared to PC1 (P < 0.05).


Feeding choline as PC in the maternal diet improved the ability of immune cells to respond ex vivo to mitogens and increasing the amount of PC in the diet further improved T cell proliferation.


Lactation Choline Phosphatidylcholine Immune function Mesenteric lymphocytes Splenocytes 



The authors would like to acknowledge the technical assistance of Nicole Coursen, Marnie Newell and Yuan Yuan Zhao. Supported by Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC RGPIN-2016-05649 and 386652) and Quality Food for Health grant from the ALMA, Alberta Innovates Biosolutions and the Egg Farmers of Alberta (2012Q005R). E.D. Lewis was a recipient of the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship and the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship. C. Richard was a recipient of postdoctoral fellow scholarships from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec and Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowships. R.L. Jacobs is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator.

Author contributions

CJF, RLJ, and JMC designed the study and obtained funding; NSD, EDL, and SG conducted the study; CR and NSD analyzed data and performed statistical analysis; CR, CJF, and NSD wrote the paper; and CJF has primary responsibility for final content. All authors have helped interpret read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest in relation with this study.

Supplementary material

394_2017_1493_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. S. Dellschaft
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Richard
    • 1
  • E. D. Lewis
    • 1
  • S. Goruk
    • 1
  • R. L. Jacobs
    • 1
  • J. M. Curtis
    • 1
  • C. J. Field
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional ScienceUniversity of Alberta, 4-126A Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research InnovationEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Early Life Research Unit, Academic Division of Child Health, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, Queen’s Medical CentreUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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