Interaction between foods, microbes and the intestine

We are interested in how food substrates influence the growth of beneficial microbes in the gastrointestinal tract

Milk glycans and intestinal microbiota

Milk glycans pictureWe are currently working as part of a large collaborative effort termed the Milk Bioactives Program.  During breast-feeding, Bifidobacterium sp. are often enriched in the infant gastrointestinal tract. It has been proposed that milk glycans are responsible for this enrichment. With our collaborators in the Milk Bioactives Program and the Functional Glycobiology Program we are investigating how milk glycans (free glycans, glycoproteins, glycolipids) impact the intestinal microbiota of the nursing infant as well as exploring the fundamental mechanistic basis for this interaction.  In a parallel effort we have examined other animal milks as potential sources for large quantities of these bioactive glycans that could serve as a means to protect the intestine from various chronic and pathogenic challenges observed in various populations.

Some general questions we are interested in:

  • How do different bacteria that consume milk glycans carry out that process?
  • Are glycan-consuming bacteria more predominant in infants who are breast-fed?
  • What are the genes involved in milk glycan consumption in bifidobacteria and how are they regulated?
  • How does growth on milk glycans impact bacterial-host interactions?
  • Does the genotype of the mother and the type of milk glycans delivered impact the infant microbiota?
  • Are other animal milk glycans mimic human milk glycan activities?

Sample Publications in this area

(see a full list of Mills Lab pubs here)