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Differences and Similarities in the Peptide Profile of Preterm and Term Mother’s Milk, and Preterm and Term Infant Gastric Samples


Our previous studies revealed that milk proteases begin to hydrolyze proteins in the mammary gland and that proteolytic digestion continues within the infant stomach. No research has measured how the release of milk peptides differs between the gastric aspirates of term and premature infants. This study examined the presence of milk peptides in milk and gastric samples from term and preterm infants using an Orbitrap Fusion Lumos mass spectrometer. Samples were collected from nine preterm-delivering and four term-delivering mother-infant pairs. Our study reveals an increased count and ion abundance of peptides and decreased peptide length from mother's milk to the infant stomach, confirming that additional break-down of the milk proteins occurred in both preterm and term infants' stomachs. Protein digestion occurred at a higher level in the gastric contents of term infants than in gastric contents of preterm infants. An amino acid cleavage site-based enzyme analysis suggested that the observed higher proteolysis in the term infants was due to higher pepsin/cathepsin D activity in the stomach. Additionally, there was a higher quantity of antimicrobial peptides in term infant gastric contents than in those of preterm infants, which could indicate that preterm infants benefit less from bioactive peptides in the gut.

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