Bovine milk contains microRNA and messenger RNA that are stable under degradative conditions

J Dairy Sci. 2012 Sep;95(9):4831-4841. doi: 10.3168/jds.2012-5489.


We previously reported that microRNA (miRNA) is present in human breast milk. Recently, other groups have reported that bovine milk also contains miRNA; however, these reports are few. We therefore investigated bovine milk miRNA using microarray and quantitative PCR analyses to identify the differences between colostrum and mature milk. The RNA concentration in a colostrum whey fraction was higher than that in a mature milk whey fraction. In total, 102 miRNA were detected in bovine milk by microarray analysis (100 in colostrum and 53 in mature milk; 51 were common to both). Among these miRNA, we selected several immune- and development-related miRNA, including miR-15b, miR-27b, miR-34a, miR-106b, miR-130a, miR-155, and miR-223. These miRNA were detected in bovine milk by quantitative PCR, and each of these miRNA was significantly more highly expressed in colostrum than in mature milk. We also confirmed the presence of some mRNA in bovine milk. Nevertheless, synthesized miRNA spiked in the raw milk whey were degraded, and naturally existing miRNA and mRNA in raw milk were resistant to acidic conditions and RNase treatment. The RNA molecules in milk were stable. We also detected miRNA and mRNA in infant formulas purchased from Japanese markets. It is still unknown whether milk-derived RNA molecules play biological roles in infants; however, if milk-derived RNA do show functions in infants, our data will help guide future studies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colostrum / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger