There is accumulating evidence that milk shapes the postnatal metabolic environment of the newborn infant. Based on translational research, this perspective article provides a novel mechanistic link between milk intake and milk miRNA-regulated gene expression of the transcription factor p53 and DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1), two guardians of the human genome, that control transcriptional activity, cell survival, and apoptosis. Major miRNAs of milk, especially miRNA-125b, directly target TP53 and complex p53-dependent gene regulatory networks. TP53 regulates the expression of key genes involved in cell homeostasis such as FOXO1, PTEN, SESN1, SESN2, AR, IGF1R, BAK1, BIRC5, and TNFSF10. Nuclear interaction of p53 with DNMT1 controls gene silencing. The most abundant miRNA of milk and milk fat, miRNA-148a, directly targets DNMT1. Reduced DNMT1 expression further attenuates the activity of histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) involved in the regulation of chromatin structure and access to transcription. The presented milk-mediated miRNA-p53-DNMT1 pathway exemplified at the promoter regulation of survivin (BIRC5) provides a novel explanation for the epidemiological association between milk consumption and acne vulgaris and prostate cancer. Notably, p53- and DNMT1-targeting miRNAs of bovine and human milk survive pasteurization and share identical seed sequences, which theoretically allows the interaction of bovine miRNAs with the human genome. Persistent intake of milk-derived miRNAs that attenuate p53- and DNMT1 signaling of the human milk consumer may thus present an overlooked risk factor promoting acne vulgaris, prostate cancer, and other p53/DNMT1-related Western diseases. Therefore, bioactive miRNAs of commercial milk should be eliminated from the human food chain.
Keywords: Acne vulgaris; Cancer; Chromatin; DNA methyltransferase 1; Exosome; Gene expression; Milk; Prostate cancer; miRNAs; p53.