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Authors: Niamh M. Murray, Dolores O'Riordan, Jean-Christophe Jacquier, Michael O'Sullivan, Joshua L. Cohen, Hildegarde Heymann, Daniela Barile, David C. Dallas

Casein-hydrolysates (NaCaH) are desirable functional ingredients, but their bitterness impedes usage in foods. This study sought to validate a paper-disk approach to help evaluate bitterness in NaCaHs and to develop a food-grade approach to separate a NaCaH into distinct fractions, which could be evaluated by a sensory panel. Membrane filtration generated < 0.2-µm and <3-kDa permeates. Further fractionation of the <3-kDa permeate by flash-chromatography generated four fractions using ethanol (EtOH) concentrations of 5, 10, 30, and 50%. As some fractions were poorly soluble in water, the fractions were resolubilized in EtOH and impregnated into paper disks for sensory evaluation. Bitterness differences observed in the membrane fractions using this sensory evaluation approach reflected those observed for the same fractions presented as a liquid. The flash-chromatography fractions increased in bitterness with an increase in hydrophobicity, except for the 50% EtOH fraction which had little bitterness. Amino acid analysis of the fractions showed enrichment of different essential amino acids in both the bitter and less bitter fractions.
Practical applications

The developed food-grade fractionation system, allowed for a simple and reasonably scaled approach to separating a NaCaH, into physicochemically different fractions that could be evaluated by a sensory panel. The method of sensory evaluation used in this study, in which NaCaH samples are impregnated into paper disks, provided potential solutions for issues such as sample insolubility and limited quantities of sample. As the impregnated paper-disk samples were dehydrated, their long storage life could also be suitable for sensory evaluations distributed by mail for large consumer studies. The research, in this study, allowed for a greater understanding of the physicochemical basis for bitterness in this NaCaH. As some essential amino acids were enriched in the less bitter fractions, selective removal of bitter fractions could allow for the incorporation of the less bitter NaCaH fractions into food products for added nutritional value, without negatively impacting sensory properties. There is potential for this approach to be applied to other food ingredients with undesirable tastes, such as polyphenols.

Analysis of Milk from Mothers Who Delivered Prematurely Reveals Few Changes in Proteases and Protease Inhibitors across Gestational Age at Birth and Infant Postnatal Age

Journal of Nutrition


Authors: Veronique Demers-Mathieu, Søren Drud Nielsen, Mark A Underwood, Robyn Borghese, David C. Dallas

Background: Peptidomics research has demonstrated that protease activity is higher in breast milk from preterm-delivering mothers than from term-delivering mothers. However, to our knowledge, the effect of the degree of prematurity and postnatal age on proteases and protease inhibitors in human milk remains unknown.

Objective: We aimed to determine the change of proteases and protease inhibitors in milk from mothers who delivered prematurely across gestational age (GA) and postnatal age.

Methods: Milk samples were collected from 18 mothers aged 26–40 y who delivered preterm infants and who lacked mastitis. For analysis, samples were separated into 2 groups: 9 from early GA (EGA) (24–26 wk GA)-delivering mothers and 9 from late GA (LGA) (27–32 wk GA)-delivering mothers. Within the 9 samples in each group, the collection time ranged from postnatal days 2 to 47. The activity and predicted activity of proteases in preterm milk were determined with the use of fluorometric and spectrophotometric assays and peptidomics, respectively. Protease and protease inhibitor concentrations were determined with the use of ELISA. Linear mixed models were applied to compare enzymes across GA and postnatal age.

Results: Carboxypeptidase B2, kallikrein, plasmin, elastase, thrombin, and cytosol aminopeptidase were present and active in the milk of preterm-delivering mothers. Most milk protease and antiprotease concentrations did not change with GA or postnatal age. However, the concentration and activity of kallikrein, the most abundant and active protease in preterm milk, increased by 25.4 ng ⋅ mL−1 ⋅ d−1 and 0.454 μg ⋅ mL−1 ⋅ d−1 postnatally, respectively, in EGA milk samples while remaining stable in LGA milk samples.

Conclusions: This research demonstrates that proteases are active in human milk and begin to degrade milk protein within the mammary gland before consumption by infants. Proteases and protease inhibitors in milk from mothers of premature infants mostly did not vary substantially across GA and postnatal age.

Food Chemistry


Authors: Søren Drud Nielsen, Robert L. Beverly, Yunyao Qu, David C. Dallas

During processing and digestion, milk proteins are disassembled into peptides with an array of biological functions, including antimicrobial, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition, antioxidant, opioid, and
immunomodulation. These functions are summarized in numerous reviews, yet information on which peptides have which functions remains scattered across hundreds of research articles. We systematically searched the literature for all instances of bioactive peptides derived from milk proteins from any mammalian source. The data were compiled into a comprehensive database, which can be used to search for specific functions, peptides, or proteins ( To review this large dataset,
the bioactive peptides reported in the literature were visually mapped on the parent protein sequences, providing information on sites with highest abundance of bioactive peptides.

Enzymes in Human Milk

Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, Intestinal Microbiome: Functional Aspects in Health and Disease


Authors: David C. Dallas, J. Bruce German

 Milk proteins are a complex and diverse source of biological activities. Beyond their function, intact milk proteins also act as carriers of encrypted functional sequences that, when released as peptides, exert biological functions, including antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activity, which could contribute to the infant's competitive success. Research has now revealed that the release of these functional peptides begins within the mammary gland itself. A complex array of proteases produced in mother's milk has been shown to be active in the milk, releasing these peptides. Moreover, our recent research demonstrates that these milk proteases continue to digest milk proteins within the infant's stomach, possibly even to a larger extent than the infant's own proteases. As the neonate has relatively low digestive capacity, the activity of milk proteases in the infant may provide important assistance to digesting milk proteins. The coordinated release of these encrypted sequences is accomplished by selective proteolytic action provided by an array of native milk proteases and infant-produced enzymes. The task for scientists is now to discover the selective advantages of this protein-protease-based peptide release system.

Antibody-independent identification of bovine milk-derived peptides in breast-milk

Food & Function


Authors: Gianluca Picariello, Francesco Addeo, Pasquale Ferranti, Rita Nocerino, Lorella Paparo, Annalisa Passariello, David C. Dallas, Randall C. Robinson, Daniela Barile, Roberto Berni Canani

Exclusively breast-fed infants can exhibit clear signs of IgE or non IgE-mediated cow's milk allergy. However, the definite characterization of dietary cow's milk proteins (CMP) that survive the maternal digestive tract to be absorbed into the bloodstream and secreted into breast milk remains missing. Herein, we aimed at assessing possible CMP-derived peptides in breast milk. Using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-high resolution mass spectrometry (MS), we compared the peptide fraction of breast milk from 12 donors, among which 6 drank a cup of milk daily and 6 were on a strict dairy-free diet. We identified two bovine β-lactoglobulin (β-Lg, 2 out 6 samples) and one αs1-casein (1 out 6 samples) fragments in breast milk from mothers receiving a cup of bovine milk daily. These CMP-derived fragments, namely β-Lg (f42–54), (f42–57) and αs1-casein (f180–197), were absent in milk from mothers on dairy-free diet. In contrast, neither intact nor hydrolyzed β-Lg was detected by western blot and competitive ELISA in any breast milk sample. Eight additional bovine milk-derived peptides identified by software-assisted MS were most likely false positive. The results of this study demonstrate that CMP-derived peptides rather than intact CMP may sensitize or elicit allergic responses in the neonate through mother's milk. Immunologically active peptides from the maternal diet could be involved in priming the newborn's immune system, driving a tolerogenic response. 


Personalizing protein nourishment

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition


Authors: David C. Dallas, Megan R. Sanctuary, Yunyao Qu, Shabnam Haghighat Khajavi, Alexandria E. Van Zandt, Melissa Dyandra, Steven A. Frese, Daniela Barile, J. Bruce German

Proteins are not equally digestible—their proteolytic susceptibility varies by their source and processing method. Incomplete digestion increases colonic microbial protein fermentation (putrefaction), which produces toxic metabolites that can induce inflammation in vitro and have been associated with inflammation in vivo. Individual humans differ in protein digestive capacity based on phenotypes, particularly disease states. To avoid putrefaction-induced intestinal inflammation, protein sources and processing methods must be tailored to the consumer's digestive capacity. This review explores how food processing techniques alter protein digestibility and examines how physiological conditions alter digestive capacity. Possible solutions to improving digestive function or matching low digestive capacity with more digestible protein sources are explored. Beyond the ileal digestibility measurements of protein digestibility, less invasive, quicker and cheaper techniques for monitoring the extent of protein digestion and fermentation are needed to personalize protein nourishment. Biomarkers of protein digestive capacity and efficiency can be identified with the toolsets of peptidomics, metabolomics, microbial sequencing and multiplexed protein analysis of fecal and urine samples. By monitoring individual protein digestive function, the protein component of diets can be tailored via protein source and processing selection to match individual needs to minimize colonic putrefaction and, thus, optimize gut health.

Peptidomic analysis reveals proteolytic activity of kefir microorganisms on bovine milk proteins

Food Chemistry


Authors: David C. Dallas, Florine Citerne, Vitor L. M. Silva, Tian Tian, Karen M. Kalanetra, Steven A. Frese, Randall C. Robinson, David A. Mills, Daniela Barile

The microorganisms that make up kefir grains are well known for lactose fermentation, but the extent to which they hydrolyze and consume milk proteins remains poorly understood. Peptidomics technologies were used to examine the proteolytic activity of kefir grains on bovine milk proteins. Methods and results: Gel electrophoresis revealed substantial digestion of milk proteins by kefir grains, with mass spectrometric analysis showing the release of 609 protein fragments and alteration of the abundance of >1,500 peptides that derived from 27 milk proteins. Kefir contained 25 peptides identified from the literature as having biological activity, including those with antihypertensive, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, opioid and anti-oxidative functions. 16S rRNA and shotgun metagenomic sequencing identified the principle taxa in the culture as Lactobacillus species. Conclusion: The model kefir sample contained thousands of protein fragments released in part by kefir microorganisms and in part by native milk proteases.

Proteolytic systems in milk: Perspectives on the evolutionary function within the mammary gland and the infant

Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia


Authors: David C. Dallas, Niamh M. Murray, Junai Gan

Milk contains elements of numerous proteolytic systems (zymogens, active proteases, protease inhibitors and protease activators) produced in part from blood, in part by mammary epithelial cells and in part by immune cell secretion. Researchers have examined milk proteases for decades, as they can cause major defects in milk quality and cheese production. Most previous research has examined these proteases with the aim to eliminate or control their actions. However, our recent peptidomics research demonstrates that these milk proteases produce specific peptides in healthy milk and continue to function within the infant’s gastrointestinal tract. These findings suggest that milk proteases have an evolutionary function in aiding the infant’s digestion or releasing functional peptides. In other words, the mother provides the infant with not only dietary proteins but also the means to digest them. However, proteolysis in the milk is controlled by a balance of protease inhibitors and protease activators so that only a small portion of milk proteins are digested within the mammary gland. This regulation presents a question: If proteolysis is beneficial to the infant, what benefits are gained by preventing complete proteolysis through the presence of protease inhibitors? In addition to summarizing what is known about milk proteolytic systems, we explore possible evolutionary explanations for this proteolytic balance.

Peptidomic analysis of healthy and subclinically mastitic bovine milk

International Dairy Journal


Authors: Andres Guerrero, David C. Dallas, Stephanie Contreras, Aashish Bhandari, Angela Cánovas, Alma Islas-Trejo, Juan F. Medrano, Evan A. Parker, Meng Wang, Kasper Hettinga, Sabrina Chee, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile, Carlito B. Lebrilla

Fig. 1.  Average (n = 6) logarithmic ion intensities () and number of peptides () by protein of origin; error bars show the standard deviation from the average. Protein abbreviations are expressed in Uniprot code.

Fig. 1. 

Average (n = 6) logarithmic ion intensities () and number of peptides () by protein of origin; error bars show the standard deviation from the average. Protein abbreviations are expressed in Uniprot code.

A variety of proteases release hundreds of endogenous peptide fragments from intact bovine milk proteins. Mass spectrometry-based peptidomics allows for high throughput sequence assignment of a large number of these peptides. Mastitis is known to result in increased protease activity in the mammary gland. Therefore, we hypothesized that subclinically mastitic milks would contain higher concentrations of released peptides. In this work, milks were sampled from three cows and, for each, one healthy and one subclinically mastitic teat were sampled for milk. Peptides were analyzed by nano-liquid chromatography quadrupole time of flight tandem mass spectrometry and identified with database searching. In total, 682 peptides were identified. The total number of released peptides increased 146% from healthy to subclinically mastitic milks (p < 0.05), and the total abundance of released peptides also increased significantly (p < 0.05). Bioinformatic analysis of enzyme cleavage revealed increases in activity of cathepsin D and elastase (p < 0.05) with subclinical mastitis.

Endogenous human milk peptide release is greater after preterm birth than term birth

Journal of Nutrition


Authors: David C. Dallas, Christina J. Smink, Randall C. Robinson, Tian Tian, Andres Guerrero, Evan A. Parker, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Kasper A. Hettinga, Mark A. Underwood, Carlito B. Lebrilla, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile

Hundreds of naturally occurring milk peptides are present in term human milk. Preterm milk is produced before complete maturation of the mammary gland, which could change milk synthesis and secretion processes within the mammary gland, leading to differences in protein expression and enzymatic activity, thereby resulting in an altered peptide profile. This study examined differences in peptides present between milk from women delivering at term and women delivering prematurely.

Current peptidomics: applications, purification, identification, quantification and functional analysis



Authors: David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Evan Parker, Randall C. Robinson, Junai Gan, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile, Carlito B. Lebrilla

Peptidomics is an emerging field branching from proteomics that targets endogenously produced protein fragments. Endogenous peptides are often functional within the body—and can be both beneficial and detrimental. This review covers the use of peptidomics in understanding digestion, and identifying functional peptides and biomarkers. Various techniques for peptide and glycopeptide extraction, both at analytical and preparative scales, and available options for peptide detection with MS are discussed. Current algorithms for peptide sequence determination, and both analytical and computational techniques for quantification are compared. Techniques for statistical analysis, sequence mapping, enzyme prediction, and peptide function, and structure prediction are explored.

Peptidomic profile of milk of Holstein cows at peak lactation

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


Authors: David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Evan Parker, Luis A. Garay, Aashish Bhandari, Carlito B. Lebrilla, Daniela Barile, J. Bruce German

Bovine milk is known to contain naturally occurring peptides, but relatively few of their sequences have been determined. Human milk contains hundreds of endogenous peptides, and the ensemble has been documented for antimicrobial actions. Naturally occurring peptides from bovine milk were sequenced and compared with human milk peptides. Bovine milk samples from six cows in second-stage peak lactation at 78–121 days postpartum revealed 159 peptides. Most peptides (73%) were found in all six cows sampled, demonstrating the similarity of the intramammary peptide degradation across these cows. One peptide sequence, ALPIIQKLEPQIA from bovine perilipin 2, was identical to another found in human milk. Most peptides derived from β-casein, αs1-casein, and αs2-casein. No peptides derived from abundant bovine milk proteins such as lactoferrin, β-lactoglobulin, and secretory immunoglobulin A. The enzymatic cleavage analysis revealed that milk proteins were degraded by plasmin, cathepsins B and D, and elastase in all samples.

Following the digestion of milk proteins from mother to baby

Journal of Proteome Research


Authors: Therese A. Holton, Vaishnavi Vijayakumar, David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Robyn A. Borghese, Carlito B. Lebrilla, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile, Mark A. Underwood, Denis C. Shields, Nora Khaldi, 

Little is known about the digestive process in infants. In particular, the chronological activity of enzymes across the course of digestion in the infant remains largely unknown. To create a temporal picture of how milk proteins are digested, enzyme activity was compared between intact human milk samples from three mothers and the gastric samples from each of their 4–12 day postpartum infants, 2 h after breast milk ingestion. The activities of 7 distinct enzymes are predicted in the infant stomach based on their observed cleavage pattern in peptidomics data. We found that the same patterns of cleavage were evident in both intact human milk and gastric milk samples, demonstrating that the enzyme activities that begin in milk persist in the infant stomach. However, the extent of enzyme activity is found to vary greatly between the intact milk and gastric samples. Overall, we observe that milk-specific proteins are cleaved at higher levels in the stomach compared to human milk. Notably, the enzymes we predict here only explain 78% of the cleavages uniquely observed in the gastric samples, highlighting that further investigation of the specific enzyme activities associated with digestion in infants is warranted.


A peptidomic analysis of human milk digestion in the infant stomach reveals protein-specific degradation patterns

Journal of Nutrition


Authors: David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Nora Khaldi, Robyn Borghese, Aashish Bhandari, Mark A. Underwood, Carlito B. Lebrilla, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile

In vitro digestion of isolated milk proteins results in milk peptides with a variety of actions. However, it remains unclear to what degree protein degradation occurs in vivo in the infant stomach and whether peptides previously annotated for bioactivity are released. This study combined nanospray LC separation with time-of-flight mass spectrometry, comprehensive structural libraries, and informatics to analyze milk from 3 human mothers and the gastric aspirates from their 4- to 12-d-old postpartum infants. Milk from the mothers contained almost 200 distinct peptides, demonstrating enzymatic degradation of milk proteins beginning either during lactation or between milk collection and feeding. In the gastric samples, 649 milk peptides were identified, demonstrating that digestion continues in the infant stomach. Most peptides in both the intact milk and gastric samples were derived from β-casein. The numbers of peptides from β-casein, lactoferrin, α-lactalbumin, lactadherin, κ-casein, serum albumin, bile salt–associated lipase, and xanthine dehydrogenase/oxidase were significantly higher in the gastric samples than in the milk samples (P < 0.05). A total of 603 peptides differed significantly in abundance between milk and gastric samples (P < 0.05). Most of the identified peptides have previously identified biologic activity. Gastric proteolysis occurs in the term infant in the first 2 wk of life, releasing biologically active milk peptides with immunomodulatory and antibacterial properties of clinical relevance to the proximal intestinal tract.

Predicting the important enzymes in human breast milk digestion

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


Authors: Nora Khaldi, Vaishnavi Vijayakumar, David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Saumya Wickramasinghe, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Juan F. Medrano, Carlito B. Lebrilla, Denis C. Shields, J. Bruce German

Human milk is known to contain several proteases, but little is known about whether these enzymes are active, which proteins they cleave, and their relative contribution to milk protein digestion in vivo. This study analyzed the mass spectrometry-identified protein fragments found in pooled human milk by comparing their cleavage sites with the enzyme specificity patterns of an array of enzymes. The results indicate that several enzymes are actively taking part in the digestion of human milk proteins within the mammary gland, including plasmin and/or trypsin, elastase, cathepsin D, pepsin, chymotrypsin, a glutamyl endopeptidase-like enzyme, and proline endopeptidase. Two proteins were most affected by enzyme hydrolysis: β-casein and polymeric immunoglobulin receptor. In contrast, other highly abundant milk proteins such as α-lactalbumin and lactoferrin appear to have undergone no proteolytic cleavage. A peptide sequence containing a known antimicrobial peptide is released in breast milk by elastase and cathepsin D. 

Mechanistic peptidomics: factors that dictate specificity in the formation of endogenous peptides in human milk

Molecular and Cellular Proteomics


Authors: Andres Guerrero, David C. Dallas, Stephanie Contreras, Sabrina Chee, Evan Parker, Lauren Dimapasoc, Daniela Barile, J. Bruce German, Carlito B. Lebrilla

An extensive mass spectrometry analysis of the human milk peptidome has revealed almost 700 endogenous peptides from 30 different proteins. Two in-house computational tools were created and used to visualize and interpret the data through both alignment of the peptide quasi-molecular ion intensities and estimation of the differential enzyme participation. These results reveal that the endogenous proteolytic activity in the mammary gland is remarkably specific and well conserved. Certain proteins-not necessarily the most abundant ones-are digested by the proteases present in milk, yielding endogenous peptides from selected regions. Our results strongly suggest that factors such as the presence of specific proteases, the position and concentration of cleavage sites, and, more important, the intrinsic disorder of segments of the protein drive this proteolytic specificity in the mammary gland. As a consequence of this selective hydrolysis, proteins that typically need to be cleaved at specific positions in order to exert their activity are properly digested, and bioactive peptides encoded in certain protein sequences are released. Proteins that must remain intact in order to maintain their activity in the mammary gland or in the neonatal gastrointestinal tract are unaffected by the hydrolytic environment present in milk. These results provide insight into the intrinsic structural mechanisms that facilitate the selectivity of the endogenous milk protease activity and might be useful to those studying the peptidomes of other biofluids.

Comprehensive peptidomic and glycomic evaluation reveals that sweet whey permeate from colostrum is a source of milk protein-derived peptides and oligosaccharides


Authors: David C. Dallas, Juliana de Moura Bell, Meng Wang, Evan A. Parker, Andres Guerrero, Kasper A. Hettinga, Carlito B. Lebrilla CB, J. Bruce German, Daniela Barile

Whey permeate is a co-product obtained when cheese whey is passed through an ultrafiltration membrane to concentrate whey proteins. Whey proteins are retained by the membrane, whereas the low-molecular weight compounds such as lactose, salts, oligosaccharides and peptides pass through the membrane yielding whey permeate. Research shows that bovine milk from healthy cows contains hundreds of naturally occurring peptides – many of which are homologous with known antimicrobial and immunomodulatory peptides – and nearly 50 oligosaccharide compositions (not including structural isomers). As these endogenous peptides and oligosaccharides have low-molecular weight and whey permeate is currently an under-utilized product stream of the dairy industry, we hypothesized that whey permeate may serve as an inexpensive source of naturally occurring functional peptides and oligosaccharides. Laboratory fractionation of endogenous peptides and oligosaccharides from bovine colostrum sweet whey was expanded to pilot-scale. The membrane fractionation methodology used was similar to the methods commonly used industrially to produce whey protein concentrate and whey permeate. Pilot-scale fractionation was compared to laboratory-scale fractionation with regard to the identified peptides and oligosaccharide compositions. Results were interpreted on the basis of whether industrial whey permeate could eventually serve as a source of functional peptides and oligosaccharides. The majority (96%) of peptide sequences and the majority (96%) of oligosaccharide compositions found in the laboratory-scale process were mirrored in the pilot-scale process. Moreover, the pilot-scale process recovered an additional 33 peptides and 1 oligosaccharide not identified from the laboratory-scale extraction. Both laboratory- and pilot-scale processes yielded peptides deriving primarily from the protein β-casein. The similarity of the laboratory- and pilot-scale's resulting peptide and oligosaccharide profiles demonstrates that whey permeate can serve as an industrial-scale source of bovine milk peptides and oligosaccharides.

Determining functional properties and sources of recently identified bioactive food components: oligosaccharides, glycolipids, glycoproteins and peptides

Book chapter: Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems


Authors: Matthew Lange, Hyeyoung Lee, David C. Dallas, Annabelle Le Parc, Juliana de Moura Bell, Daniela Barile

Production and bioactivity of bovine milk oligosaccharides

Book chapter: Food Oligosaccharides: Production, Analysis and Bioactivity


Authors: David C. Dallas, Mickael Meyrand, Daniela Barile

Milk has evolved to provide only components that will give selective advantage to the growing neonate. Oligosaccharides—short polymers made of several monosaccharides—are carbohydrates present in all mammalian milks studied so far and cannot be degraded by the infant's digestive enzymes. However, oligosaccharides selectively feed beneficial commensal bacteria. Some oligosaccharides also act as decoys for pathogenic bacteria and viruses to prevent infection in the neonate. The functional effects of human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) and the lack of commercial availability of those molecules have stimulated a search for alternative sources for clinical trials and food supplementation. Bovine milk oligosaccharides (BMO) are similar to HMO in their structural building block and complexity. BMO have been identified in the whey permeate fraction that is left over after cheese-making and whey protein recovery. The billions of gallons of whey processed yearly represent an enormous source of milk oligosaccharides for food products and supplements.

Coupling mass spectrometry-based “omic” sciences with bioguided processing to unravel milk’s hidden bioactivities

Advances in Dairy Research


Authors: David C. Dallas, Hyeyoung Lee, Annabelle Le Parc, Juliana de Moura Bell, Daniela Barile

Many of milk’s functional molecules could not be discovered until the right concordance of novel separation and analytical technologies were developed and applied. Many health-promoting components still await discovery due to technical challenges in their identification, isolation and testing. As new analytical technologies are assembled, new functional milk molecules will be discovered. Bovine milk is a source of a wide array of known bioactive compounds from a variety of molecular classes, including free glycans, lipids, glycolipids, peptides, proteins, glycoproteins, stem cells and microRNA. Because milk is such a complex mixture, when analyzed without fractionation or purification, many components mask the analytical signal of others, so some components cannot be detected. Modern analytics allow for the discovery and characterization of hundreds of novel milk compounds with high-resolution and highaccuracy. Liquid chromatography paired with electrospray ionization allows the separation of peptides, glycans and glycolipids for improved mass spectrometric detection. Target proteins and glycoproteins can now be purified from intact milk or other dairy streams by chromatography in order to better characterize these proteins for new bioactivities. The combination of advanced analytics with the new engineering capabilities will allow for high molecular resolution and separation techniques that can be scaled-up to semi-industrial and industrial scale for translation of lab-based discoveries. Bioguided analysis and design of dairy processing side streams will result in the transformation of waste into isolated functional ingredients to add value to dietary products.

Extensive in vivo human milk peptidomics reveals specific proteolysis yielding protective antimicrobial peptides

Journal of Proteome Research


Authors: David C. Dallas, Andres Guerrero, Nora Khaldi, Patricia Castillo, Bill Martin, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Charles Bevins, Daniela Barile, J. Bruce German, Carlito B. Lebrilla

Milk is traditionally considered an ideal source of the basic elemental nutrients required by infants. More detailed examination is revealing that milk represents a more functional ensemble of components with benefits to both infants and mothers. A comprehensive peptidomics method was developed and used to analyze human milk yielding an extensive array of protein products present in the fluid. Over 300 milk peptides were identified originating from major and many minor protein components of milk. As expected, the majority of peptides derived from β-casein, however no peptide fragments from the major milk proteins lactoferrin, α-lactalbumin, and secretory immunoglobulin A were identified. Proteolysis in the mammary gland is selective—released peptides were drawn only from specific proteins and typically from only select parts of the parent sequence. A large number of the peptides showed significant sequence overlap with peptides with known antimicrobial or immunomodulatory functions. Antibacterial assays showed the milk peptide mixtures inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The predigestion of milk proteins and the consequent release of antibacterial peptides may provide a selective advantage through evolution by protecting both the mother’s mammary gland and her nursing offspring from infection.

Consumption of human milk glycoconjugates by infant-associated bifidobacteria: Mechanisms and implications



Authors: Daniel Garrido, David C. Dallas, David A. Mills 

Human milk is a rich source of nutrients and energy, shaped by mammalian evolution to provide all the nutritive requirements of the newborn. In addition, several molecules in breast milk act as bioactive agents, playing an important role in infant protection and guiding a proper development. While major breast milk nutrients such as lactose, lipids and proteins are readily digested and consumed by the infant, other molecules, such as human milk oligosaccharides and glycosylated proteins and lipids, can escape intestinal digestion and transit through the gastrointestinal tract. In this environment, these molecules dictate the composition of the developing infant intestinal microbiota by preventing the colonization of enteric pathogens and providing carbon and nitrogen sources for other colonic commensals. Only a few bacteria, in particular Bifidobacterium species, can gain access to the energetic content of milk as it appears in the colon, probably contributing to their predominance in the intestinal microbiota in the first year of life. Bifidobacteria deploy intricate molecular mechanisms to utilize human milk oligosaccharides, and recent evidence indicates that their activities also target other human milk glycoconjugates. Here, we review advances in our understanding of how these microbes have been shaped by breast milk components and the molecular mechanisms associated with their consumption of milk glycoconjugates.

Comparison of milk oligosaccharides between goats with and without the genetic ability to synthesize αs1-casein

Small Ruminant Research


Authors: Mickael Meyrand, David C. Dallas, Caillat H, Bouvier F, Patrice Martin, Daniela Barile

Typical gas chromatography profile of the trimethylsilyl methyl glycoside derivatives generated after methanolic HCl treatment of a mixture of purified goat milk oligosaccharides. The monosaccharides analyzed were fucose (Fuc), N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), galactose (Gal), glucose (Glc), N-acetylneuraminic acid (NeuAc), and N-glycolylneuraminic acid (NeuGc). Response factors for each monosaccharide were calculated based on d-allose, the internal standard (IS) and indicated in parentheses.

Milk oligosaccharides (OS)—free complex carbohydrates—confer unique health benefits to the nursing neonate. Though human digestive enzymes cannot degrade these sugars, they provide nourishment to specific commensal microbes and act as decoys to prevent the adhesion of pathogenic micro-organisms to gastrointestinal cells. At present, the limited quantities of human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) impede research on these molecules and their potential applications in functional food formulations. Considerable progress has been made in the study of OS structures; however, the synthetic pathways leading to their synthesis in the mammary gland are poorly understood. Recent studies show that complex OS with fucose and N-acetyl neuraminic acid (key structural elements of HMO bioactivity) exist in goat milk. Polymorphisms in the CSN1S1 locus, which is responsible for synthesis of αs1-casein, affect lipid and casein micelle structure in goat milk. The present study sought to determine whether CSN1S1 polymorphisms also influence goat milk oligosaccharide (GMO) production and secretion. The GMO compositions of thirty-two goat milk samples, half of which were from genotype A/A (αs1-casein producers) and half from genotype O/O (αs1-casein non-producers), were determined with nanoflow liquid chromatography high-accuracy mass spectrometry. This study represents the most exhaustive characterization of GMO to date. A systematic and comprehensive GMO library was created, consolidating information available in the literature with the new findings. Nearly 30 GMO, 11 of which were novel, were confirmed via tandem mass spectrometric analyses. Six fucosylated OS were identified; 4 of these matched HMO compositions and three were identified for the first time in goat milk. Importantly, multivariate statistical analysis demonstrated that the OS profiles of the A/A and O/O genotype milks could be discriminated by the fucosylated OS. Quantitative analysis revealed that the goat milk samples contained 1.17 g/L of OS; however, their concentration in milks from A/A and O/O genotypes was not different. This study provides evidence of a genetic influence on specific OS biosynthesis but not total OS production. The presence of fucosylated GMO suggests that goat milk represents a potential source of bioactive milk OS suitable as a functional food ingredient.

Automated glycopeptide analysis--review of current state and future directions

Briefings in Bioinformatics


Authors: David C. Dallas, Bill Martin, Serenus Hua, J. Bruce German

Glycosylation of proteins is involved in immune defense, cell–cell adhesion, cellular recognition and pathogen binding and is one of the most common and complex post-translational modifications. Science is still struggling to assign detailed mechanisms and functions to this form of conjugation. Even the structural analysis of glycoproteins—glycoproteomics—remains in its infancy due to the scarcity of high-throughput analytical platforms capable of determining glycopeptide composition and structure, especially platforms for complex biological mixtures. Glycopeptide composition and structure can be determined with high mass-accuracy mass spectrometry, particularly when combined with chromatographic separation, but the sheer volume of generated data necessitates computational software for interpretation. This review discusses the current state of glycopeptide assignment software—advances made to date and issues that remain to be addressed. The various software and algorithms developed so far provide important insights into glycoproteomics. However, there is currently no freely available software that can analyze spectral data in batch and unambiguously determine glycopeptide compositions for N- and O-linked glycopeptides from relevant biological sources such as human milk and serum. Few programs are capable of aiding in structural determination of the glycan component. To significantly advance the field of glycoproteomics, analytical software and algorithms are required that: (i) solve for both N- and O-linked glycopeptide compositions, structures and glycosites in biological mixtures; (ii) are high-throughput and process data in batches; (iii) can interpret mass spectral data from a variety of sources and (iv) are open source and freely available.

Protein-linked glycan degradation in infants fed human milk

Journal of Glycomics and Lipidomics


Authors: David C. Dallas, David A. Sela, Mark Underwood, J. Bruce German, Carlito B. Lebrilla

Many human milk proteins are glycosylated. Glycosylation is important in protecting bioactive proteins and peptide fragments from digestion. Protein-linked glycans have a variety of functions; however, there is a paucity of information on protein-linked glycan degradation in either the infant or the adult digestive system. Human digestive enzymes can break down dietary disaccharides and starches, but most of the digestive enzymes required for complex protein-linked glycan degradation are absent from both human digestive secretions and the external brush border membrane of the intestinal lining. Indeed, complex carbohydrates remain intact throughout their transit through the stomach and small intestine, and are undegraded by in vitro incubation with either adult pancreatic secretions or intact intestinal brush border membranes.
Human gastrointestinal bacteria, however, produce a wide variety of glycosidases with regio- and anomeric specificities matching those of protein-linked glycan structures. These bacteria degrade a wide array of complex carbohydrates including various protein-linked glycans. That bacteria possess glycan degradation capabilities, whereas the human digestive system, perse, does not, suggests that most dietary protein-linked glycan breakdown will be of bacterial origin. In addition to providing a food source for specific bacteria in the colon, protein-linked glycans from human milk may act as decoys for pathogenic bacteria to prevent invasion and infection of the host. The composition of the intestinal microbiome may be particularly important in the most vulnerable humans-the elderly, the immunocompromised, and infants (particularly premature infants).

Digestion of protein in premature and term infants

Journal of Nutritional Disorders and Therapies


Authors: David C. Dallas, Mark A. Underwood, Angela M. Zivkovic, J. Bruce German

Premature birth rates and premature infant morbidity remain discouragingly high. Improving nourishment for these infants is the key for accelerating their development and decreasing disease risk. Dietary protein is essential for growth and development of infants. Studies on protein nourishment for premature infants have focused on protein requirements for catch-up growth, nitrogen balance, and digestive protease concentrations and activities. However, little is known about the processes and products of protein digestion in the premature infant. This review briefly summarizes the protein requirements of term and preterm infants, and the protein content of milk from women delivering preterm and at term. An in-depth review is presented of the current knowledge of term and preterm infant dietary protein digestion, including human milk protease and anti-protease concentrations; neonatal intestinal pH, and enzyme activities and concentrations; and protein fermentation by intestinal bacteria. The advantages and disadvantages of incomplete protein digestion as well as factors that increase resistance to proteolysis of particular proteins are discussed. In order to better understand protein digestion in preterm and term infants, future studies should examine protein and peptide fragment products of digestion in saliva, gastric, intestinal and fecal samples, as well as the effects of the gut micro biome on protein degradation. The confluence of new mass spectrometry technology and new bioinformatics programs will now allow thorough identification of the array of peptides produced in the infant as they are digested.

N-linked glycan profiling of mature human milk by high performance microfluidic chip liquid chromatography time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


Authors: David C. Dallas, Bill Martin, John Strum, Angela M. Zivkovic, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Mark A. Underwood, Michael Affolter, Carlito B. Lebrilla, J. Bruce German

N-Linked glycans of skim human milk proteins were determined for three mothers. N-Linked glycans are linked to immune defense, cell growth, and cell−cell adhesion, but their functions in human milk are undetermined. Protein-bound N-linked glycans were released with peptidyl N-glycosidase F (PNGase F), enriched by graphitized carbon chromatography, and analyzed with Chip-TOF MS. To be defined as N-glycans, compounds were required, in all three procedural replicates, to match, within 6 ppm, against a theoretical human N-glycan library and be at least 2-fold higher in abundance in PNGase F-treated than in control samples. Fifty-two N-linked glycan compositions were identified, and 24 were confirmed via tandem mass spectra analysis. Twenty-seven compositions have been found previously in human milk, and 25 are novel compositions. By abundance, 84% of N-glycans were fucosylated and 47% were sialylated. The majority (70%) of total N-glycan abundance was composed of N-glycans found in all three milk samples.

Nutrigenomics and personalized diets: What will they mean for food?

Annual Review of Food Science and Technology


Authors: J. Bruce German, Angela M. Zivkovic, David C. Dallas, Jennifer T. Smilowitz

The modern food system feeds six billion people with remarkable diversity, safety, and nutrition. Yet, the current rise in diet-related diseases is compromising health and devaluing many aspects of modern agriculture. Steps to increase the nutritional quality of individual foods will assist in personalizing health and in guiding individuals to achieve superior health. Nutrigenomics is the scientific field of the genetic basis for varying susceptibilities to disease and the diverse responses to foods. Although some of these genetic determinants will be simple and amenable to personal genotyping as the means to predict health, in practice most will not. As a result, genotyping will not be the secret to personalizing diet and health. Human assessment technologies from imaging to proteomics and metabolomics are providing tools to both understand and accurately assess the nutritional phenotype of individuals. The business models are also emerging to bring these assessment capabilities to industrial practice, in which consumers will know more about their personal health and seek personal solutions.