Human milk proteins: an interactomics and updated functional overview

J Proteome Res. 2010 Jul 2;9(7):3339-73. doi: 10.1021/pr100123f.


Milk and milk fractions are characterized by a wide array of proteins, whose concentration spans across several orders of magnitude. By exploiting a combined approach based on functional gene ontology enrichment (FatiGO/Babelomics), hierarchical clustering, and pathway and network analyses, we merged data from literature dealing with protein-oriented studies on human milk. A total of 285 entries defined a nonredundant list upon comparison with the Ingenuity Knowledge Base from the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software. Results were compared with an inventory of bovine milk proteins gathered from dedicated proteomic studies. A protein core of 106 proteins was found, with most of the entries associated to three main biological functions, namely nutrient transport/lipid metabolism, concretization of the immune system response and cellular proliferation processes. Our analyses confirm and emphasize that the biological role of the human milk proteins is not only limited to the provision of external nutrients and defense molecules against pathogens to the suckling but also to the direct stimulation of the growth of neonate tissues/organs and to the development of a proper independent immune system, both through the induction of a number of molecular cascades associated with cell proliferation/differentiation. The latter aspects were previously investigated by single-molecule dedicated studies, missing the holistic view that results from our analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Humans
  • Milk Proteins* / genetics
  • Milk Proteins* / immunology
  • Milk Proteins* / metabolism
  • Milk, Human* / chemistry
  • Milk, Human* / physiology
  • Proteomics*
  • Signal Transduction* / genetics
  • Signal Transduction* / physiology


  • Milk Proteins