Human milk--derived oligosaccharides and plant-derived oligosaccharides stimulate cytokine production of cord blood T-cells in vitro

Pediatr Res. 2004 Oct;56(4):536-40. doi: 10.1203/01.PDR.0000139411.35619.B4. Epub 2004 Aug 4.


Human milk contains large amounts of free oligosaccharides (HMOs). HMOs have been shown to exert antiinflammatory properties, and evidence for their immunomodulatory effects is increasing. The purpose of this study was to evaluate influences of two human breast milk-derived oligosaccharide samples (neutral and acidic oligosaccharides), and of a low-molecular-weight fucoidan on cytokine production and activation of cord blood mononuclear cells. Cord blood mononuclear cells from randomly chosen healthy newborns were co-cultured with the oligosaccharide samples. By means of flow cytometry, intracellular cytokine production (d 20) and surface marker expression of T cells (d 5) were measured. In vitro-induced Ig levels were quantified nephelometrically (total IgG1) and by ELISA (total IgE) in the supernatant of cell cultures. The acidic oligosaccharide fraction increased the percentage of interferon-gamma producing CD3+CD4+ and CD3+CD8+ cells (p < 0.05) and the IL-13 production in CD3+CD8+ cells (p < 0.05). In acidic oligosaccharide cultures, CD25+ expression on CD3+CD4+ cells was significantly elevated (p < 0.05). Low-molecular-weight fucoidan induced IL-4 production in CD3+CD4+ T cells (p < 0.05) and IL-13 production in CD3+CD8+ T cells (p < 0.05), whereas interferon-gamma production remained unaffected in both T-cell populations. Ig production (total IgE and total IgG1) remained unaffected. Human milk-derived oligosaccharides and plant-derived oligosaccharides affect the cytokine production and activation of cord blood derived T cells in vitro. Therefore, oligosaccharides and, in particular, acidic oligosaccharides may influence lymphocyte maturation in breast-fed newborns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / growth & development
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Oligosaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Plants / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Oligosaccharides