Lactation-related microRNA expression profiles of porcine breast milk exosomes

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043691. Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns, and is rich in immunological components. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are present in various body fluids and are selectively packaged inside the exosomes, a type of membrane vesicles, secreted by most cell types. These exosomal miRNAs could be actively delivered into recipient cells, and could regulate target gene expression and recipient cell function. Here, we analyzed the lactation-related miRNA expression profiles in porcine milk exosomes across the entire lactation period (newborn to 28 days after birth) by a deep sequencing. We found that immune-related miRNAs are present and enriched in breast milk exosomes (p<10(-16), χ(2) test) and are generally resistant to relatively harsh conditions. Notably, these exosomal miRNAs are present in higher numbers in the colostrums than in mature milk. It was higher in the serum of colostrum-only fed piglets compared with the mature milk-only fed piglets. These immune-related miRNA-loaded exosomes in breast milk may be transferred into the infant body via the digestive tract. These observations are a prelude to in-depth investigations of the essential roles of breast milk in the development of the infant's immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colostrum / metabolism
  • Exosomes / genetics*
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Lactation / genetics*
  • Lactation / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Milk / metabolism*
  • Swine / genetics*
  • Swine / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE36590

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Key Technology Research and Development Program of Sichuan (Project-16), the Key Projects in the National Science & Technology Pillar Program (2011BAD28B01), the National Swine Industry Technology System Program (CARS-36), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30901024) and the International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China (2011DFB30340). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.