Characterisation of the immune compounds in koala milk using a combined transcriptomic and proteomic approach

Katrina M. Morris, Denis O'Meally, Thiri Zaw, Xiaomin Song, Amber Gillett, Mark P. Molloy, Adam Polkinghorne, Katherine Belov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Production of milk is a key characteristic of mammals, but the features of lactation vary greatly between monotreme, marsupial and eutherian mammals. Marsupials have a short gestation followed by a long lactation period, and milk constituents vary greatly across lactation. Marsupials are born immunologically naïve and rely on their mother's milk for immunological protection. Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are an iconic Australian species that are increasingly threatened by disease. Here we use a mammary transcriptome, two milk proteomes and the koala genome to comprehensively characterise the protein components of koala milk across lactation, with a focus on immune constituents. The most abundant proteins were well-characterised milk proteins, including β-lactoglobulin and lactotransferrin. In the mammary transcriptome, 851 immune transcripts were expressed, including immunoglobulins and complement components. We identified many abundant antimicrobial peptides, as well as novel proteins with potential antimicrobial roles. We discovered that marsupial VELP is an ortholog of eutherian Glycam1, and likely has an antimicrobial function in milk. We also identified highly-abundant koala endogenous-retrovirus sequences, identifying a potential transmission route from mother to young. Characterising the immune components of milk is key to understanding protection of marsupial young, and the novel immune compounds identified may have applications in clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number35011
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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