Dietary Isomers of Sialyllactose Increase Ganglioside Sialic Acid Concentrations in the Corpus Callosum and Cerebellum and Modulate the Colonic Microbiota of Formula-Fed Piglets

J Nutr. 2016 Feb;146(2):200-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.220152. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Background: Sialyllactose is a key human milk oligosaccharide and consists of sialic acid (SA) bound to a lactose molecule. Breastfed infants have increased accumulation of ganglioside-bound SA compared with formula-fed infants.

Objective: This study aimed to determine whether different isomers of sialyllactose enrich brain SA and modulate the microbiome of developing neonatal piglets.

Methods: Day-old pigs were randomly allocated to 6 diets (control, 2 or 4 g 3'-sialyllactose/L, 2 or 4 g 6'-sialyllactose/L, or 2 g polydextrose/L + 2 g galacto-oligosaccharides/L; n = 9) and fed 3 times/d for 21 d. Pigs were killed, and the left hemisphere of the brain was dissected into cerebrum, cerebellum, corpus callosum, and hippocampus regions. SA was determined by using a modified periodic acid-resorcinol reaction. Microbial composition of the intestinal digesta was analyzed with the use of 16S ribosomal DNA Illumina sequencing.

Results: Dietary sialyllactose did not affect feed intake, growth, or fecal consistency. Ganglioside-bound SA in the corpus callosum of pigs fed 2 g 3'-sialyllactose or 6'-sialyllactose/L increased by 15% in comparison with control pigs. Similarly, ganglioside-bound SA in the cerebellum of pigs fed 4 g 3'-sialyllactose/L increased by 10% in comparison with control pigs. Significant (P < 0.05, Adonis Test) microbiome differences were observed in the proximal and distal colons of piglets fed control compared with 4-g 6'-sialyllactose/L formulas. Differences were attributed to an increase in bacterial taxa belonging to species Collinsella aerofaciens (phylum Actinobacteria), genera Ruminococcus and Faecalibacterium (phylum Firmicutes), and genus Prevotella (phylum Bacteroidetes) (Wald test, P < 0.05, DeSeq2) compared with piglets fed the control diet. Taxa belonging to families Enterobacteriaceae and Enterococcaceae (phylum Proteobacteria), as well as taxa belonging to family Lachnospiraceae and order Lactobacillales (phylum Firmicutes), were 2.3- and 4-fold lower, respectively, in 6'-sialyllactose-fed piglets than in controls.

Conclusions: Supplementation of formula with 3'- or 6'-sialyllactose can enrich ganglioside SA in the brain and modulate gut-associated microbiota in neonatal pigs. We propose 2 potential routes by which sialyllactose may positively affect the neonate: serving as a source of SA for neurologic development and promoting beneficial microbiota.

Keywords: brain; infant formula; intestine; microbiome; oligosaccharides; prebiotic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Colon / drug effects*
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Corpus Callosum / drug effects
  • Corpus Callosum / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Gangliosides / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Infant Formula*
  • Isomerism
  • Lactose / analogs & derivatives*
  • Lactose / pharmacology
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Oligosaccharides / pharmacology
  • Sialic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Swine


  • 3'-sialyllactose
  • Gangliosides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Sialic Acids
  • N-acetylneuraminoyllactose
  • Lactose