Release of functional peptides from mother’s milk and fortifier proteins in the premature infant stomach

Søren D. Nielsen, Robert L. Beverly, Mark Underwood, David C. Dallas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Digestion of milk proteins in the premature infant stomach releases functional peptides; however, which peptides are present has not been reported. Premature infants are often fed a combination of human milk and bovine milk fortifiers, but the variety of functional peptides released from both human and bovine milk proteins remains uncharacterized. This study applied peptidomics to investigate the peptides released in gastric digestion of mother’s milk proteins and supplemental bovine milk proteins in premature infants. Peptides were assessed for homology against a database of known functional peptides—Milk Bioactive Peptide Database. The peptidomic data were analyzed to interpret which proteases most likely released them from the parent protein. We identified 5,264 unique peptides from bovine and human milk proteins within human milk, fortifier or infant gastric samples. Plasmin was predicted to be the most active protease in milk, while pepsin or cathepsin D were predicted to be most active in the stomach. Alignment of the peptide distribution showed a different digestion pattern between human and bovine proteins. The number of peptides with high homology to known functional peptides (antimicrobial, angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibitory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, etc.) increased from milk to the premature infant stomach and was greater from bovine milk proteins than human milk proteins. The differential release of bioactive peptides from human and bovine milk proteins may impact overall health outcomes in premature infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0208204
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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