This study was designed to examine the effects of dietary vitamin E (VE) on modulation of immune responses when supplied with two levels of n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (n-3 HUFA) in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Six semipurified diets were prepared containing three levels of dietary VE (0, 100 or 1000 mg α-tocopheryl acetate kg-1 diet) and n-3 HUFA either at 20 or 48% of dietary lipid provided from fish oil or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentrated fish oil respectively. The diets were fed to rainbow trout (100 g initial mean weight) for 15 weeks. The VE, vitamin C (VC) content in plasma and tissues and the nonspecific immune responses, both humoral (alternative complement activity, total immunoglobulin) and cellular (phagocytosis, nonspecific cytotoxicity) were examined. VE contents in the kidney reflected the dietary input but were lower in fish fed 48% n-3 HUFA diets, and could have impaired some of immune responses compared to fish fed 20% n-3 HUFA. VC contents in kidney followed the same pattern as VE. Both humoral and cellular immune functions deteriorated in fish fed VE deficient diets whereas improvement in most of the parameters corresponded to its supplementation. However, the higher dose of dietary VE did not substantially enhance the responses assayed compared to the 100 mg dose. Besides clearly indicating the role of VE in maintaining the immune functions in fish in relation to dietary n-3 HUFA, this study has revealed that optimum health benefits could be achieved when VE is maintained slightly above the levels generally recommended for normal growth.
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