Human milk oligosaccharides promote immune tolerance via direct interactions with human dendritic cells

Eur J Immunol. 2019 Jul;49(7):1001-1014. doi: 10.1002/eji.201847971. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOS) are a complex mixture of bioactive components supporting the immune development of breastfed-infants. Dendritic cells (DCs) play a central role in the regulation of immune responses, being specialized in antigen presentation and driving T-cell priming as well as differentiation. However, little is known about the direct effects of HMOS on human DC phenotypes and functions. Here, we report that HMOS mixture isolated from pooled human milk, induced semi-maturation of human monocytes-derived DCs (moDCs), and elevated levels of IL-10, IL-27 and IL-6 but not IL-12p70 and TNF-α. Consistently, HMOS-conditioned human moDCs promoted Treg generation from naïve CD4+ T cells. Interestingly, HMOS limited LPS-induced maturation of human moDCs, while maintained IL-10 and IL-27 secretion and reduced LPS-induced production of IL-12p70, IL-6 and TNF-α. Furthermore, HMOS+LPS-stimulated DCs induced a higher frequency of Tregs and increased IL-10 production, while a reduction in Tbet+Th1 frequency and IFN-γ production was detected as compared to LPS-DCs. The regulatory effects of HMOS seemed to be mediated by interactions of HMOS with receptors, including but not limited to TLR4 and DC-SIGN on human moDCs. In conclusion, HMOS contain tolerogenic factors influencing human moDCs and thereby modulating the development of the neonatal immune system.

Keywords: DC-SIGN; IL-10; TLR4; human milk oligosaccharides; regulatory T cells (Treg).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Endocrine System / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytokines
  • DC-specific ICAM-3 grabbing nonintegrin
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4