Secretion of 13C-labelled oligosaccharides into human milk and infant's urine after an oral [13C]galactose load

Isotopes Environ Health Stud. 1999;35(1-2):119-25. doi: 10.1080/10256019908234084.


Human milk oligosaccharides seem to play an important role in the infant's defense against bacterial and viral infections of the gastrointestinal and the urogenital tract. In this study, we investigated the influence of dietary carbohydrates on the biosynthesis of lactose and oligosaccharides in the human mammary gland and their renal excretion by the human milk-fed infant. For this purpose, a lactating woman was given 27 g galactose (Gal) containing 2 g [13C] Gal (1-13C/99%) immediately after breakfast. In the following 36 h, milk (5-10 ml) was collected before each nursing. Infant's urine was collected over a period of 24 h. 13C-enrichment was measured in total milk, milk fat and protein, in the carbohydrate fraction as well as in urine by isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS). Milk carbohydrates and deproteinized urine samples were fractionated by Sephadex G25 gel filtration and further analyzed by IRMS, high performance thin layer chromatography and and high pH anion exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection (HPAEC-PAD). IRMS revealed that in milk a maximal delta 13CPDB was reached within 8 h after Gal intake which then rapidly declined in the following 8 h. The cumulative 13C-elimination over this first peak was 6.9% of the oral 13C-dose. The highest 13C-enrichment was detectable in the carbohydrate fraction, mainly in lactose and neutral oligosaccharides. Compared to the enrichment of human milk, the delta 13CPDB of infant's urine was delayed. In urine, the highest amount of 13C was found in the Sephadex G25 fractions which mainly contained lactose, fucosyl-lactose, lacto-N-tetraose (LNT), fucosyl-LNT and difucosyl-LNT. For further characterization, individual components were separated by HPAEC-PAD and subsequently analyzed by fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry and IRMS. The data show, that orally applied Gal is incorporated in milk, especially in lactose and neutral oligosaccharides. Obviously, some of these components were absorbed by the infant and then excreted with urine. There, oligosaccharides may serve as analogous receptors for bacterial or viral adhesion molecules, and, hence, may prevent urogenital infections in breastfed infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Female
  • Galactose / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lactation
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Oligosaccharides / urine*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Galactose