Bioactive Components of Milk

Volume 606 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 397-422

Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs), IGF Binding Proteins, and Other Endocrine Factors in Milk: Role in the Newborn

  • Jürg. W. BlumAffiliated withVeterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern
  • , Craig R. Baumrucker

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The role of colostrum and milk in the neonate has been chiefly recognized as a comprehensive nutrient foodstuff. In addition, the provision of colostrum —the first milk —for early immune capacity has been well documented for several species. Colostrum is additionally a rich and concentrated source of various factors that demonstrate biological activity in vitro. Three hypotheses have been proposed for the phenotypic function of these secreted bioactive components: (1) only mammary disposal, (2) mammary cell regulation, and (3) neonatal function [gastrointestinal tract (GIT) or systemic]. Traditionally, it was assumed that the development of the GIT is preprogrammed and not influenced by events occurring in the intestinal lumen. However, a large volume of research has demonstrated that colostrum (or milk-borne) bioactive components can basically contribute to the regulation of GIT growth and differentiation, while their role in postnatal development at physiological concentrations has remained elusive. Much of our current understanding is derived from cell culture and laboratory animals, but experimentation with agriculturally important species is taking place.

This chapter provides an overview of work conducted primarily in neonatal calves and secondarily in other species on the effects on neonates of selected peptide endocrine factors (hormones, growth factors, in part cytokines) in colostrum. The primary focus will be on insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) and IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) and other bioactive peptides, but new interest and concern about steroids (especially estrogens) in milk are considered as well.


endocrine factors colostrum milk neonate gastrointestinal tract metabolism