Variability of Serum Proteins in Chinese and Dutch Human Milk during Lactation

Elwakiel, Mohèb; Boeren, Sjef; Hageman, Jos A.; Szeto, Ignatius M.; Schols, Henk A.; Hettinga, Kasper A.


To better understand the variability of the type and level of serum proteins in human milk, the milk serum proteome of Chinese mothers during lactation was investigated using proteomic techniques and compared to the milk serum proteome of Dutch mothers. This showed that total milk serum protein concentrations in Chinese human milk decreased over a 20-week lactation period, although with variation between mothers in the rate of decrease. Variation was also found in the composition of serum proteins in both colostrum and mature milk, although immune-active proteins, enzymes, and transport proteins were the most abundant for all mothers. These three protein groups account for many of the 15 most abundant proteins, with these 15 proteins covering more than 95% of the total protein concentrations, in both the Chinese and Dutch milk serum proteome. The Dutch and Chinese milk serum proteome were also compared based on 166 common milk serum proteins, which showed that 22% of the 166 serum proteins differed in level. These differences were observed mainly in colostrum and concern several highly abundant proteins. This study also showed that protease inhibitors, which are highly correlated to immune-active proteins, are present in variable amounts in human milk and could be relevant during digestion.