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J Dairy Sci. 2012 Mar;95(3):1085-98. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4455.

Identification of major milk fat globule membrane proteins from pony mare milk highlights the molecular diversity of lactadherin across species.

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  • 1INRA, UMR1313 Unité Génétique Animale et Biologie Intégrative, F-78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France.


Although several studies have been devoted to the colloidal and soluble protein fractions of mare milk (caseins and whey proteins), to date little is known about the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) protein fraction from mare milk. The objective of this study was thus to describe MFGM proteins from Equidae milk and to compare those proteins to already described MFGM proteins from cow and goat milk. Major MFGM proteins (namely, xanthine oxidase, butyrophilin, lactadherin, and adipophilin) already described in cow or goat milk were identified in mare milk using mass spectrometry. However, species-specific peculiarities were observed for 2 MFGM proteins: butyrophilin and lactadherin. A highly glycosylated 70-kDa protein was characterized for equine butyrophilin, whereas proteins of 64 and 67 kDa were characterized for cow and goat butyrophilin, respectively. Prominent differences across species were highlighted for lactadherin. Indeed, whereas 1 or 2 polypeptide chains were identified, respectively, by peptide mass fingerprinting matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight analysis for caprine and bovine lactadherin, 4 isoforms (60, 57, 48, and 45 kDa) for lactadherin from mare milk were identified by 10% sodium dodecyl sulfate-PAGE. Polymerase chain reaction experiments on lactadherin transcripts isolated from milk fat globules revealed the existence of 2 distinct lactadherin transcripts in the horse mammary gland. Cloning and sequencing of both transcripts encoding lactadherin showed an alternative use of a cryptic splice site located at the end of intron 5 of the equine lactadherin-encoding gene. This event results in the occurrence of an additional alanine (A) residue in the protein that disrupts a putative atypical N-glycosylation site (VNGC/VNAGC) described in human lactadherin. Liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry analyses confirmed the existence of both lactadherin variants in mare MFGM. We show here that lactadherin from Equidae milk is much more complex than that from Bovidae milk (i.e., cow and goat milk), therefore raising questions regarding the precise function of these different isoforms, if any, in the equine mammary gland.

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