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Diseases 2017, 5(1), 12; doi:10.3390/diseases5010012

Milk’s Role as an Epigenetic Regulator in Health and Disease

1
Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Osnabrück, Am Finkenhügel 7a, D-49076 Osnabrück, Germany
2
Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Regensburg, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauß-Allee 11, D-93053 Regensburg, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 January 2017 / Revised: 2 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 March 2017 / Published: 15 March 2017
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Abstract

It is the intention of this review to characterize milk’s role as an epigenetic regulator in health and disease. Based on translational research, we identify milk as a major epigenetic modulator of gene expression of the milk recipient. Milk is presented as an epigenetic “doping system” of mammalian development. Milk exosome-derived micro-ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) that target DNA methyltransferases are implicated to play the key role in the upregulation of developmental genes such as FTO, INS, and IGF1. In contrast to miRNA-deficient infant formula, breastfeeding via physiological miRNA transfer provides the appropriate signals for adequate epigenetic programming of the newborn infant. Whereas breastfeeding is restricted to the lactation period, continued consumption of cow’s milk results in persistent epigenetic upregulation of genes critically involved in the development of diseases of civilization such as diabesity, neurodegeneration, and cancer. We hypothesize that the same miRNAs that epigenetically increase lactation, upregulate gene expression of the milk recipient via milk-derived miRNAs. It is of critical concern that persistent consumption of pasteurized cow’s milk contaminates the human food chain with bovine miRNAs, that are identical to their human analogs. Commercial interest to enhance dairy lactation performance may further increase the epigenetic miRNA burden for the milk consumer. View Full-Text
Keywords: breastfeeding; DNA methyltransferase; epigenetic regulation; exosome; FTO; infant formula; lactation; miRNA-148a; milk; non-communicalbe diseases of civilization breastfeeding; DNA methyltransferase; epigenetic regulation; exosome; FTO; infant formula; lactation; miRNA-148a; milk; non-communicalbe diseases of civilization
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Melnik, B.C.; Schmitz, G. Milk’s Role as an Epigenetic Regulator in Health and Disease. Diseases 2017, 5, 12.

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