Carbohydrate phenotyping of human and animal milk glycoproteins

Anki Gustafsson, Imre Kacskovics, Michael E. Breimer, Lennart Hammarström, Jan Holgersson

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Breast-milk has a well-known anti-microbial effect, which is in part due to the many different carbohydrate structures expressed. This renders it a position as a potential therapeutic for treatment of infection by different pathogens, thus avoiding the drawbacks of many antibiotics. The plethora of carbohydrate epitopes in breast-milk is known to differ between species, with human milk expressing the most complex one. We have investigated the expression of protein-bound carbohydrate epitopes in milk from man, cow, goat, sheep, pig, horse, dromedary and rabbit. Proteins were separated by SDS-PAGE and the presence of carbohydrate epitopes on milk proteins were analysed by Western blotting using different lectins and carbohydrate-specific antibodies. We show that ABH, Lewis (Le) x, sialyl-Le x, Le a, sialyl-Le a and Le b carbohydrate epitopes are expressed mainly on man, pig and horse milk proteins. The blood group precursor structure H type 1 is expressed in all species investigated, while only pig, dromedary and rabbit milk proteins carry H type 2 epitopes. These epitopes are receptors for Helicobacter pylori (Le b and sialyl-Le x), enteropathogenic (H type 1, Le a and Le x) and enterotoxic Escherichia coli (heat-stable toxin; H type 1 and 2), and Campylobacter jejuni (H type 2). Thus, milk from these animals or their genetically modified descendants could have a therapeutic effect by inhibiting pathogen colonization and infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-118
Number of pages10
JournalGlycoconjugate Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2005



  • Carbohydrate epitopes
  • Milk proteins
  • Pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Gustafsson, A., Kacskovics, I., Breimer, M. E., Hammarström, L., & Holgersson, J. (2005). Carbohydrate phenotyping of human and animal milk glycoproteins. Glycoconjugate Journal, 22(3), 109-118.