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Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:429-450. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-030216-030207.

Milk Glycans and Their Interaction with the Infant-Gut Microbiota.

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Foods for Health Institute and Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA; email:
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Human milk is a unique and complex fluid that provides infant nutrition and delivers an array of bioactive molecules that serve various functions. Glycans, abundant in milk, can be found as free oligosaccharides or as glycoconjugates. Milk glycans are increasingly linked to beneficial outcomes in neonates through protection from pathogens and modulation of the immune system. Indeed, these glycans influence the development of the infant and the infant-gut microbiota. Bifidobacterium species commonly are enriched in breastfed infants and are among a limited group of bacteria that readily consume human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) and milk glycoconjugates. Given the importance of bifidobacteria in infant health, numerous studies have examined the molecular mechanisms they employ to consume HMOs and milk glycans, thus providing insight into this unique enrichment and shedding light on a range of translational opportunities to benefit at-risk infants.


Bifidobacterium; glycans; infant microbiota; milk oligosaccharides

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