Milk miRNAs: simple nutrients or systemic functional regulators?

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016 Jun 21;13:42. doi: 10.1186/s12986-016-0101-2. eCollection 2016.


Milk is rich in miRNAs that appear to play important roles in the postnatal development of all mammals. Currently, two competing hypotheses exist: the functional hypothesis, which proposes that milk miRNAs are transferred to the offspring and exert physiological regulatory functions, and the nutritional hypothesis, which suggests that these molecules do not reach the systemic circulation of the milk recipient, but merely provide nutrition without conferring active regulatory signals to the offspring. The functional hypothesis is based on indirect evidence and requires further investigation. The nutritional hypothesis is primarily based on three mouse models, which are inherently problematic: 1) miRNA-375 KO mice, 2) miRNA-200c/141 KO mice, and 3) transgenic mice presenting high levels of miRNA-30b in milk. This article presents circumstantial evidence that these mouse models may all be inappropriate to study the physiological traffic of milk miRNAs to the newborn mammal, and calls for new studies using more relevant mouse models or human milk to address the fate and role of milk miRNAs in the offspring and the adult consumer of cow's milk.

Keywords: Endocytosis; Exosomes; Gene regulation; Intestinal uptake; Lactation; Mammary gland; Milk; Mouse models; miRNA; miRNA degradation.