Human and great ape milks contain a diverse array of milk oligosaccharides, but little is known about the milk oligosaccharides of other primates, and how they differ among taxa. Neutral and acidic oligosaccharides were isolated from the milk of three species of Old World or catarrhine monkeys (Cercopithecidae: rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), toque macaque (Macaca sinica) and Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas)) and three of New World or platyrrhine monkeys (Cebidae: tufted capuchin (Cebus apella) and Bolivian squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis); Atelidae: mantled howler (Alouatta palliata)). The milks of these species contained 6–8% total sugar, most of which was lactose: the estimated ratio of oligosaccharides to lactose in Old World monkeys (1:4 to 1:6) was greater than in New World monkeys (1:12 to 1:23). The chemical structures of the oligosaccharides were determined mainly by 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Oligosaccharides containing the type II unit (Gal(β1-4)GlcNAc) were found in the milk of the rhesus macaque, toque macaque, Hamadryas baboon and tufted capuchin, but oligosaccharides containing the type I unit (Gal(β1-3)GlcNAc), which have been found in human and many great ape milks, were absent from the milk of all species studied. Oligosaccharides containing Lewis x (Gal(β1-4)[Fuc(α1-3)]GlcNAc) and 3-fucosyl lactose (3-FL, Gal(β1-4)[Fuc(α1-3)]Glc) were found in the milk of the three cercopithecid monkey species, while 2-fucosyl lactose (5'-FL, Fuc(α1-2)Gal(β1-4)Glc) was absent from all species studied. All of these milks contained acidic oligosaccharides that had N-acetylneuraminic acid as part of their structures, but did not contain oligosaccharides that had N-glycolylneuraminic acid, in contrast to the milk or colostrum of great apes which contain both types of acidic oligosaccharides. Two GalNAc-containing oligosaccharides, lactose 3′-O-sulfate and lacto-N-novopentaose I (Gal(β1-3)[Gal(β1-4)GlcNAc(β1-6)]Gal(β1-4)Glc) were found only in the milk of rhesus macaque, hamadryas baboon and tufted capuchin, respectively. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which the milk oligosaccharide patterns observed among these taxa represent wider phylogenetic trends among primates and how much variation occurs among individuals or species.
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