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A bioactive bovine whey protein extract improves intestinal barrier function in vitro

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posted on 2023-11-20, 20:33 authored by Dulantha UlluwishewaDulantha Ulluwishewa, Jane MullaneyJane Mullaney, Katharine Adam, Rod Claycomb, Rachel AndersonRachel Anderson

The human intestine plays an important role as a barrier against the ingress of pathogens and other harmful antigens. Accordingly, proper regulation of the intestinal barrier is essential for optimal health. Intestinal barrier function is regulated in part by the interactions between dietary compounds and the intestinal immune system. Bioactive whey proteins from bovine milk (such as lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, and immunoglobulins) are known to exert a range of physiological functions, including modulation of the immune system, and thus have the potential to regulate intestinal barrier function. While the effects of individual whey proteins on intestinal barrier function have been studied to some extent, less is known about the potentially synergistic properties of whey protein mixtures. Here we investigated the effects of a bioactive bovine whey protein (BWP) extract containing all whey proteins with an isoelectric point >6.8 on intestinal barrier function in vitro. Intestinal epithelial cell (Caco-2) monolayers were treated with BWP before measuring the barrier integrity over 48 h by means of trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER). Treatment of epithelial monolayers with 1 mg/mL BWP resulted in an increase in TEER compared with untreated epithelial monolayers. To determine whether BWP could mitigate immune-mediated intestinal barrier dysfunction, we challenged differentiated Caco-2 cell monolayers with tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) to obtain an in vitro model of a “leaky” intestinal epithelium. The TNFα challenge led to a decrease in TEER over time across untreated control monolayers, indicating a loss of barrier function. This loss of barrier function was mitigated in monolayers treated with 1 mg/mL BWP, but not monolayers treated with the equivalent amount of lactoferrin present in 1 mg/mL BWP. These data suggest that naturally co-occurring bioactive proteins together may enhance intestinal barrier integrity and protect against inflammation-induced barrier dysfunction to a greater extent than lactoferrin alone. Further work is required to determine the key proteins and protein combinations within BWP, and the mechanisms through which BWP modulates intestinal barrier function.


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© 2022, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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JDS Communications



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