Detection of a single nucleotide polymorphism in the human α-lactalbumin gene: Implications for human milk proteins

Winyoo Chowanadisai, Shannon L. Kelleher, Jennifer F. Nemeth, Stephen Yachetti, Charles F. Kuhlman, Joan G. Jackson, Anne M. Davis, Eric L. Lien, Bo Lönnerdal

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25 Scopus citations


Variability in the protein composition of breast milk has been observed in many women and is believed to be due to natural variation of the human population. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are present throughout the entire human genome, but the impact of this variation on human milk composition and biological activity and infant nutrition and health is unclear. The goals of this study were to characterize a variant of human α-lactalbumin observed in milk from a Filipino population by determining the location of the polymorphism in the amino acid and genomic sequences of α-lactalbumin. Milk and blood samples were collected from 20 Filipino women, and milk samples were collected from an additional 450 women from nine different countries. α-Lactalbumin concentration was measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and milk samples containing the variant form of the protein were identified with both HPLC and mass spectrometry (MS). The molecular weight of the variant form was measured by MS, and the location of the polymorphism was narrowed down by protein reduction, alkylation and trypsin digestion. Genomic DNA was isolated from whole blood, and the polymorphism location and subject genotype were determined by amplifying the entire coding sequence of human α-lactalbumin by PCR, followed by DNA sequencing. Avariant form of α-lactalbumin was observed in HPLC chromatograms, and the difference in molecular weight was determined by MS (wild type = 14,070 Da, variant = 14,056 Da). Protein reduction and digestion narrowed the polymorphism between the 33rd and 77th amino acid of the protein. The genetic polymorphism was identified as adenine to guanine, which translates to a substitution from isoleucine to valine at amino acid 46. The frequency of variation was higher in milk from China, Japan and Philippines, which suggests that this polymorphism is most prevalent in Asia. There are SNPs in the genome for human milk proteins and their implications for protein bioactivity and infant nutrition need to be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-278
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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