A fermented milk, Kefir, contains an active substance which enhances IFN-β secretion of a human osteosarcoma line MG-63 treated with a chemical inducer, poly I: poly C. The active substance in the fermented milk was identified to be sphingomyelin (SpM) by a combined use of a fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry (FAB-MS) and a fast atom bombardment tandem mass spectrometry (FAB-MS/MS). SpM from fermented milk (F-SpM) was a mixture of four molecular species of SpMs having C21-, C22-, C23- and C24-fatty acids. F-SpM enhanced the IFN secretion 14 times, SpMs from other sources also enhanced moderately (2-3 times). Sphingosine and lysosphingomyelin also enhanced the activity but ceramide and cerebroside did not.
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