Comprehensive profiles of human milk oligosaccharides yield highly sensitive and specific markers for determining secretor status in lactating mothers

J Proteome Res. 2012 Dec 7;11(12):6124-33. doi: 10.1021/pr300769g. Epub 2012 Nov 19.


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), as an abundant and bioactive component of breast milk, work in many ways to promote the health of breast fed infants. The expression of HMOs has been shown to vary in accordance with Lewis blood type and secretor status, as women of different blood types differ in the expression of α1,2 fucosyltransferase (FUT2) and α1,3/4 fucosyltransferase (FUT3). In this study, HMOs were extracted from the milk of 60 women from The Gambia, Africa with various Lewis and secretor blood types. The HMOs were profiled using high resolution HPLC-Chip/TOF mass spectrometry. Notably, the amounts of fucosylation varied significantly between Le(a+b-) nonsecretors, Le(a-b+) and Le(a-b-) secretors, and Le(a-b-) nonsecretors. With higher frequency of expression of the recessive Lewis negative and nonsecretor phenotypes in West African populations, the HMO profiles of several milks from women of these phenotypes were examined, demonstrating decreased amounts of total oligosaccharide abundance and lower relative amounts of fucosylation. Also in this study, four specific fucosylated structures (2'FL, LNFP I, LDFT, and LNDFH I) were determined to be specific and sensitive glycan markers for rapidly determining secretor status without the need for serological testing.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Gambia
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens / genetics
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Oligosaccharides / analysis*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trisaccharides / analysis
  • Trisaccharides / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Trisaccharides
  • difucosyllacto-N-hexaose
  • lacto-N-difucohexaose I
  • lacto-N-fucopentaose II
  • 2'-fucosyllactose