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Nucleosides and nucleotides:
natural bioactive substances in milk and colostrum.

Schlimme E, Martin D, Meisel H.

Bundesanstalt fur Milchforschung, Institut fur Chemie und Physik, Kiel, Germany. schlimme@bafm.de

Nucleotides, nucleosides and nucleobases belong to the non-protein-nitrogen (NPN) fraction of milk. The largest amounts of ribonucleosides and ribonucleotides--ribose forms only were considered in this review--were measured directly after parturition in bovine milk and other ruminants as well as in the milk of humans.

Generally, concentrations of most of the nucleos(t)ides tend to decrease gradually with advancing lactation period or nursing time. The species-specific pattern of these minor constituents in milk from different mammals is a remarkable property and confirms, at least, the specific physiological impact of these minor compounds in early life. The physiological capacity of these compounds in milk is given by the total potentially available nucleosides. The main dietary sources of nucleos(t)ides are nucleoproteins and nucleic acids which are converted in the course of intestinal digestion into nucleosides and nucleobases the preferred forms for absorption in the intestine.

Thus, nucleosides and nucleobases are suggested to be the acting components of dietary and/or supplemented nucleic acid-related compounds in the gut. They are used by the body as exogenous trophochemical sources and can be important for optimal metabolic functions. Up to 15 % of the total daily need for a breast-fed infant was calculated to come from this dietary source.

Concerning their biological role they not only act as metabolites but are also involved as bioactive substances in the regulation of body functions. Dietary nucleotides affect immune modulation, e.g. they enhance antibody responses of infants as shown by a study with more than 300 full-term healthy infants. Dietary nucleos(t)ides are found to contribute to iron absorption in the gut and to influence desaturation and elongation rates in fatty acid synthesis, in particular long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in early stages of life. The in vitro modulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis has been described by ribonucleosides, in particular by modified components using human cell culture models. Due to the bio- and trophochemical properties of dietary nucleos(t)ides, the European Commission has allowed the use of supplementation with specific ribonucleotides in the manufacture of infant and follow-on formula.

From the technochemical point of view, the ribonucleoside pattern is influenced by thermal treatment of milk. In addition ribonucleosides are useful indicators for quantifying adulterations of milk and milk products.

Publication Types:
· Review
· Review, Tutorial

PMID: 11242448 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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