Hypoallergenic formulas are recommended for infants who are not breastfed and cannot tolerate cow milk formulas due to allergy. These formulas are hydrolyzed to break down larger protein chains into shorter, easy-to-digest, and potentially less allergenic proteins. Hydrolysis, however, possibly occurs at the expense of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and anti-inflammatory activity that is inherent in regular formula. Our objective was to determine the TGF-β and the anti-inflammatory activity of commercially available hypoallergenic and regular formulas. Human gingival fibroblasts were incubated with reconstituted formulas followed by detection of TGF-β target genes and activation of Smad2/3 signaling. Gingival fibroblasts and the oral squamous cell carcinoma cell line HSC-2 were also exposed to formulas before adding interleukin (IL)1β and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)α to provoke expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. For murine bone marrow-derived macrophages, pro-inflammatory cytokine expression was stimulated with saliva. Changes in p65 nuclear translocation and phosphorylation of smad3 and p38 were analyzed by immunostaining. Our study demonstrated that regular formula, but not hypoallergenic formula, enhanced the expression of TGF-β target genes IL11, PRG4, and NOX4 in gingival fibroblasts. Hypoallergenic formulas also failed to initiate nuclear translocation of Smad2/3 and phosphorylation of Smad3. Moreover, regular formulas were more potent than hypoallergenic formulas in reducing the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in gingival fibroblasts, HSC-2 epithelial cells, and murine bone marrow macrophages. Hypoallergenic and regular formulas had a similar capacity to reduce p65 nuclear translocation and phosphorylation of p38 in fibroblasts. These findings suggest that hypoallergenic formulas lack in vitro TGF-β activity and have a lower anti-inflammatory activity compared with regular formulas.
Keywords: TGF-β activity anti-inflammatory activity hypoallergenic formula regular formula