Scientific reports

Fibroblast growth factor 21 in breast milk controls neonatal intestine function.

PMID 26329882


FGF21 is a hormonal factor with important functions in the control of metabolism. FGF21 is found in rodent and human milk. Radiolabeled FGF21 administered to lactating dams accumulates in milk and is transferred to neonatal gut. The small intestine of neonatal (but not adult) mice highly expresses β-Klotho in the luminal area. FGF21-KO pups fed by FGF21-KO dams showed decreased expression and circulating levels of incretins (GIP and GLP-1), reduced gene expression of intestinal lactase and maltase-glucoamylase, and low levels of galactose in plasma, all associated with a mild decrease in body weight. When FGF21-KO pups were nursed by wild-type dams (expressing FGF21 in milk), intestinal peptides and digestive enzymes were up-regulated, lactase enzymatic activity was induced, and galactose levels and body weight were normalized. Neonatal intestine explants were sensitive to FGF21, as evidenced by enhanced ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Oral infusion of FGF21 into neonatal pups induced expression of intestinal hormone factors and digestive enzymes, lactase activity and lactose absorption. These findings reveal a novel role of FGF21 as a hormonal factor contributing to neonatal intestinal function via its presence in maternal milk. Appropriate signaling of FGF21 to neonate is necessary to ensure optimal digestive and endocrine function in developing intestine.