Fecal metatranscriptomics and glycomics suggest that bovine milk oligosaccharides are fully utilized by healthy adults

Samuel T. Westreich, Jaime Salcedo, Blythe Durbin-Johnson, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Ian Korf, David A. Mills, Daniela Barile, Danielle G. Lemay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Human milk oligosaccharides play a vital role in the development of the gut microbiome in the human infant. Although oligosaccharides derived from bovine milk (BMO) differ in content and profile with those derived from human milk (HMO), several oligosaccharide structures are shared between the species. BMO are commercial alternatives to HMO, but their fate in the digestive tract of healthy adult consumers is unknown. Healthy human subjects consumed two BMO doses over 11-day periods each and provided fecal samples. Metatranscriptomics of fecal samples were conducted to determine microbial and host gene expression in response to the supplement. Fecal samples were also analyzed by mass spectrometry to determine levels of undigested BMO. No changes were observed in microbial gene expression across all participants. Repeated sampling enabled subject-specific analyses: four of six participants had minor, yet statistically significant, changes in microbial gene expression. No significant change was observed in the gene expression of host cells exfoliated in stool. Levels of BMO excreted in feces after supplementation were not significantly different from baseline and were not correlated with dosage or expressed microbial enzyme levels. Collectively, these data suggest that BMO are fully fermented in the human gastrointestinal tract upstream of the distal colon. Additionally, the unaltered host transcriptome provides further evidence for the safety of BMO as a dietary supplement or food ingredient. Further research is needed to investigate potential health benefits of this completely fermentable prebiotic that naturally occurs in cow's milk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108340
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Glycome
  • Metatranscriptome
  • Microbiome
  • Milk
  • Milk oligosaccharides
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Fecal metatranscriptomics and glycomics suggest that bovine milk oligosaccharides are fully utilized by healthy adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this