Human Lactoferrin in the Milk of Transgenic Mice Increases Intestinal Growth in Ten-Day-Old Suckling Neonates

  • P. Zhang
  • V. Sawicki
  • A. Lewis
  • L. Hanson
  • J. H. Nuijens
  • M. C. Neville
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 501)


Regulatory roles and a signaling receptor have been proposed for the milk protein lactoferrin (Lf), but none has been definitively characterized. Nichols and colleagues (1987) observed that human lactoferrin (hLf) stimulated thymidine incorporation into the DNA of rat intestinal crypt cells. We tested the hypothesis that chronic Lf administration stimulates intestinal growth by studying neonatal mice suckling transgenic dams secreting about 12 mg/mL hLf in their milk Specifically, nontransgenic litters were adjusted to eight pups each and cross-fostered to transgenic dams. Controls were pups suckling nontransgenic dams of the same strain. On day 10 postpartum pups were weighed, sacrificed, and the small intestines were weighed, measured, and stored for later determination of enzyme activities. The results indicate that intestinal growth was increased in neonates suckling transgenic dams. The weight of the small intestine was increased about 27% when the pups received milk containing hLf. Intestinal length only increased about 6.5% suggesting that Lf in milk enhanced mucosal growth. The ratio of maltase to lactase in the duodenal segment of the small intestine, an indicator of maturation, was also significantly increased in the pups suckling transgenic milks. Our results imply that chronic oral consumption of human Lf promotes the growth and maturation of the intestinal mucosa, and suggest a possible therapeutic role for the agent in premature infants as well as in patients with bowel damage.


Human Milk Intestinal Brush Border Human Lactoferrin Lactase Activity Intestinal Development 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Zhang
    • 1
  • V. Sawicki
    • 1
  • A. Lewis
    • 1
  • L. Hanson
    • 1
  • J. H. Nuijens
    • 2
  • M. C. Neville
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineDenverUSA
  2. 2.Pharming BVLeidenThe Netherlands

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