Binding of transcobalamin ii by human mammary epithelial cells

Yuriko Adkins, Bo Lönnerdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The presence of nutrient binders in milk may have an important role during milk production and may influence the nutrient's bioavailability to the infant. Human milk and plasma contain at least two types of vitamin B12 binders: transcobalamin II (TCII) and haptocorrin (Hc). Vitamin B12 in milk is exclusively bound to Hc (Hc-B12). In plasma, the major vitamin B12 binding protein that is responsible for delivering absorbed vitamin B12 to most tissues and cells is TCII (TCII-B12). Currently, little is known about the route of secretion of vitamin B12 into human milk. It is possible that a receptor-mediated pathway is involved, since maternal vitamin B12 supplementation increases the amount of the vitamin secreted into human milk if the mother's vitamin B12 consumption is low, but remains unchanged if her intake is adequate. In this study, we investigated the process by which the mammary gland acquires vitamin B12 from maternal circulation, whether as a free vitamin or as a Hc-B12 or TCII-B12 complex. TCII was purified from plasma incubated with [57Co]vit B12 (B12*), while Hc was purified from whey incubated with B12*. Both proteins were separated by fast protein liquid chromatography using gel filtration and anion-exchange columns. Purity of the separated proteins was assessed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Binding studies were carried out on a monolayer of normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC) at 4°C using free B12* and TCII-B12* an Hc-B12* complexes. Minimal binding of free B12* and Hc-B12* to HMEC was observed; however, HMEC exhibited a high affinity for the TCII-B12* complex. This study suggests that a specific cell surface receptor for the TCII-B12 complex exists in the mammary gland. It is possible that once vitamin B12 is in the mammary gland it is transferred to Hc (which may be synthesized by the mammary gland) and then secreted into milk as a Hc-B12 complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-477
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Binding of transcobalamin ii by human mammary epithelial cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this