TitleDifferences in human milk peptide release along the gastrointestinal tract between preterm and term infants.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBeverly, RL, Huston, RK, Markell, AM, McCulley, EA, Martin, RL, Dallas, DC
JournalClin Nutr
Date Published08/2020

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Preterm infants are born with a gastrointestinal tract insufficiently developed to digesting large quantities of human milk proteins. Peptides released from the digestion of human milk proteins have been identified with bioactivities that may be beneficial to the developing infant. However, it is unknown how prematurity affects total and bioactive peptide release along the gastrointestinal tract. The aim of this study was to compare milk peptide release from milk to stomach to stool between preterm and term infants.

METHODS: Milk, gastric, and stool samples were collected from preterm infants as early collection (days 8 and 9 of life) and late collection (days 21 and 22 of life), and from term infants as early collection. Milk peptides were extracted from the samples and identified using Orbitrap mass spectrometry. Peptide abundance and count were compared across digestion and between the three infant groups at each stage of digestion.

RESULTS: Total milk peptide count and abundance increased from milk to stomach then decreased in stool. Total peptide release was similar among the three infant groups for milk and stool samples. In the stomach, preterm early collection had significantly higher peptide abundance and count than the other two groups. Patterns for peptide release from individual milk proteins were distinct from total peptide release both across digestion and among the infant groups. When analyzing single peptides, term early collection gastric samples had significantly higher peptide abundance than preterm early collection for a known antimicrobial peptide, QELLLNPTHQIYPVTQPLAPVHNPISV.

CONCLUSIONS: Preterm and term infants digest milk proteins differently along their gastrointestinal tracts. While preterm infants released more total peptides in the stomach, term infants released specific bioactive peptides at higher abundance. We identified a region at the C-terminus of β-casein that is conserved from milk through stool and from which are released known and potential antimicrobial peptides.

Alternate JournalClin Nutr
PubMed ID32800606