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A bioactive peptide in fermented milk to protect the intestine

The weapons used by our intestine to defend itself against attack include a rampart formed by a layer of mucins. These glycoproteins constitute a lubricating and protective barrier, also called mucus gel. Two teams at INRA have identified a peptide encrypted in a cow's milk protein, which is also present in yoghurts and even at very low doses is able to reinforce mucin production by the intestine. This patented discovery means it is possible to envisage the development of functional foods (fermented milks) or medicines to stimulate mucus production.

Yaourt. © INRA, WEBER Jean
Updated on 05/31/2013
Published on 06/01/2011

The gastrointestinal mucus is known for its role in protecting the surface of the gastrointestinal tract epithelium against attack from acids, digestive enzymes, toxins or alcohol, etc. It also forms a natural barrier against some types of pathogens. Defects in the development of this mucus can give rise to numerous pathologies, particularly those due to an inflammation of the gastric and intestinal mucosa. The intestinal mucus is mainly made up of glycoproteins belonging to the mucin family, of which MUC2 is the principal representative. A growing body of research has confirmed how this mucin protects the epithelium.

Cow's milk peptides that module MUC2 mucin

Researchers in the Joint Research Unit for the Science and Technology of Milk and Eggs (STLO) and the Joint Research Unit for Cardiovascular, Metabolism, Diabetes and Nutrition (CarMeN) at INRA have discovered that a peptide sequence of bovine beta-casein is able to modulate the production of mucins, and notably that of MUC2, in the intestinal epithelium. Bovine beta-casein is one of the most abundant proteins in cow's milk. During the fermentation of milk, or at different stages of digestion, it is found to be degraded into different peptides, and it is one of these that attracted the attention of the research group.

The [94-123] peptide sequence identified

The [94-123] sequence is capable of inducing the expression or secretion of gastrointestinal mucins in vitro, even at very small doses of about 0.01 to 1 µM. This induction effect has also been confirmed in vivo. An international patent, no. WO2010130956, now protects these findings.

From yoghurts to medicinal products

By combining the action of fermentation strains such as Lactobacillus delbrueckii spp bulgaricus and/or Streptococcus salivarus spp thermophilus, it is possible to attain sufficient natural concentrations of this bioactive peptide in a yoghurt or any other milk drink to achieve a protective effect on the intestine. It may also be possible to use this peptide as a medicinal product to prevent intestinal inflammation (notably that of a chronic nature), intestinal infections or duodenal ulcers.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Pascale PLAISANCIE (04 72 43 81 13) INRA UMR 1235 / INSERM U870 /INSA-Lyon "Régulations Métaboliques, Nutrition et Diabètes", Bâtiment IMBL, INSA-Lyon, 11 avenue Jean Capelle, 69621 VILLEURBANNE - France
  • Joëlle LEONIL (02 23 48 53 40) UMR Science et Technologie du Lait et de l'Oeuf (UMR STLO), INRA-AGROCAMPUS-RENNES, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, 35042 RENNES CEDEX, France
Associated Division(s):
Science for Food and Bioproduct Engineering, Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour
Associated Centre(s):
Regional Board of Rhône-Alpes, Brittany-Normandy

Find out more

  • Peptides increasing the secretion and/or expression of at least one gastrointestinal mucin and/or inducing an increase in the population of mucus cells or paneth cells. Patent publication number : WO2010130956.