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Human Milk-Derived Levels of let-7g-5p May Serve as a Diagnostic and Prognostic Marker of Low Milk Supply in Breastfeeding Women

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posted on 2023-02-21, 18:45 authored by Steven D Hicks, Desirae Chandran, Alexandra Confair, Anna K. G. Ward, Shannon KelleherShannon Kelleher

Low milk supply (LMS) is associated with early breastfeeding cessation; however, the biological underpinnings in the mammary gland are not understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally downregulate gene expression, and we hypothesized the profile of miRNAs secreted into milk reflects lactation performance. Longitudinal changes in milk miRNAs were measured using RNAseq in women with LMS (n = 47) and adequate milk supply (AMS; n = 123). Relationships between milk miRNAs, milk supply, breastfeeding outcomes, and infant weight gain were assessed, and interactions between milk miRNAs, maternal diet, smoking status, and BMI were determined. Women with LMS had lower milk volume (p = 0.003), were more likely to have ceased breast feeding by 24 wks (p = 0.0003) and had infants with a lower mean weight-for-length z-score (p = 0.013). Milk production was significantly associated with milk levels of miR-16-5p (R = -0.14, adj p = 0.044), miR-22-3p (R = 0.13, adj p = 0.044), and let-7g-5p (R = 0.12, adj p = 0.046). Early milk levels of let-7g-5p were significantly higher in mothers with LMS (adj p = 0.0025), displayed an interaction between lactation stage and milk supply (p < 0.001), and were negatively related to fruit intake (p = 0.015). Putative targets of let-7g-5p include genes important to hormone signaling, RNA regulation, ion transport, and the extracellular matrix, and down-regulation of two targets (PRLR and IGF2BP1/IMP1) was confirmed in mammary cells overexpressing let-7g-5p in vitro. Our data provide evidence that milk-derived miRNAs reflect lactation performance in women and warrant further investigation to assess their utility for predicting LMS risk and early breastfeeding cessation. 


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