To continue the search for immunological roles of breast milk, cDNA microarray analysis on cytokines and growth factors was performed for human milk cells. Among the 240 cytokine-related genes, osteopontin (OPN) gene ranked top of the expression. Real-time PCR revealed that the OPN mRNA levels in colostrum cells were approximately 100 times higher than those in PHA-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMNCs), and 10 000 times higher than those in PB CD14+ cells. The median levels of OPN mRNA in early milk or mature milk cells were more than three times higher than those in colostrum cells. Western blot analysis of human milk showed appreciable expression of full-length and short form proteins of OPN. The concentrations of full-length OPN in early milk or mature milk whey continued to be higher than those in colostrum whey and plasma as assessed by ELISA. The early milk (3-7 days postpartum) contained the highest concentrations of OPN protein, while the late mature milk cells (1 years postpartum) had the highest expression of OPN mRNA of all the lactating periods. The results of immunohistochemical and immunocytochemical staining indicated that OPN-producing epithelial cells and macrophages are found in actively lactating mammary glands. These results suggest that the persistently and extraordinarily high expression of OPN in human milk cells plays a potential role in the immunological development of breast-fed infants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy