British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Nutritional Immunology

High dietary intake of vitamin C suppresses age-related thymic atrophy and contributes to the maintenance of immune cells in vitamin C-deficient senescence marker protein-30 knockout mice

Ryusei Uchioa1 c1, Yoshitaka Hirosea1, Shinji Murosakia1, Yoshihiro Yamamotoa1 and Akihito Ishigamia2

a1 Research and Development Institute, House Wellness Foods Corporation, 3-20 Imoji, Itami 664-0011, Japan

a2 Molecular Regulation of Aging, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo 173-0015, Japan


Vitamin C (VC) is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animals. It has antioxidant properties and has been reported to ameliorate oxidative damage to lipids, DNA and proteins. However, the effects of VC on immune function are poorly understood, especially the influence of long-term high-dose VC intake on the number and function of immune cells. In the present study, to evaluate the immune effects of VC, VC-deficient senescence marker protein-30 knockout (SMP30KO) mice were fed a diet containing the recommended level of VC (20 mg/kg per d; 0·02 % VC) or a high level of VC (200 mg/kg per d; 0·2 % VC) for 1 year. The plasma VC concentration of the 0·02 % group was the same as that of age-matched C57BL/6 mice after 1 year of feeding; however, plasma VC concentration and thymus weight were significantly higher in the 0·2 % VC group than in the 0·02 % VC group. The total counts of leucocytes, lymphocytes, granulocytes and monocytes in the peripheral blood, as well as the number of splenocytes and thymocytes, were all significantly higher in the 0·2 % VC group than in the 0·02 % VC group. In addition, the number of naive T cells in peripheral blood lymphocytes, the number of memory T-cell populations in splenocytes, and the number of cluster of differentiation (CD)4+CD8+ or CD4+CD8 or CD4CD8+ T cells in thymocytes were all markedly higher in the 0·2 % VC group than in the 0·02 % VC group after 1 year of dietary treatment. These results suggest that a long-term high-dose intake of VC is effective in the maintenance of immune cells, partly through the suppression of age-related thymic involution in VC-deficient SMP30KO mice.

(Received July 23 2014)

(Revised October 20 2014)

(Accepted October 23 2014)

(Online publication January 22 2015)

Key Words:

  • Vitamin C;
  • Senescence marker protein-30 knockout mice;
  • Thymus;
  • Naive T cells


c1 Corresponding author: R. Uchio, fax +81 72 778 0892, email


  Abbreviations: CD, cluster of differentiation; FBS, fetal bovine serum; FITC, fluorescein isothiocyanate; PE, phycoerythrin; PerCP, peridinin chlorophyll protein complex; SMP30, senescence marker protein-30; SMP30KO, senescence marker protein-30 knockout; SP, single positive; VC, vitamin C; WT, wild type