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Chapter Four Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOS) Structure, Function, and Enzyme-Catalyzed Synthesis


The important roles played by human milk oligosaccharides (HMOS), the third major component of human milk, in the health of breast-fed infants have been increasingly recognized, as the structures of more than 100 different HMOS have now been elucidated. Despite the recognition of the various functions of HMOS as prebiotics, antiadhesive antimicrobials, and immunomodulators, the roles and the applications of individual HMOS species are less clear. This is mainly due to the limited accessibility to large amounts of individual HMOS in their pure forms. Current advances in the development of enzymatic, chemoenzymatic, whole-cell, and living-cell systems allow for the production of a growing number of HMOS in increasing amounts. This effort will greatly facilitate the elucidation of the important roles of HMOS and allow exploration into the applications of HMOS both as individual compounds and as mixtures of defined structures with desired functions. The structures, functions, and enzyme-catalyzed synthesis of HMOS are briefly surveyed to provide a general picture about the current progress on these aspects. Future efforts should be devoted to elucidating the structures of more complex HMOS, synthesizing more complex HMOS including those with branched structures, and developing HMOS-based or HMOS-inspired prebiotics, additives, and therapeutics.

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