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Extracellular vesicles in human milk are critical in supporting newborn growth and development. Bioavailability of dietary extracellular vesicles may depend on the composition of membrane lipids. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the fatty acid desaturase gene cluster impact the content of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in human milk phospholipids. This study investigated the relation between variation in FADS1 and FADS2 with the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids in extracellular vesicles from human milk.


Milk was obtained from a cohort of mothers (N = 70) at 2–4 weeks of lactation. SNPs in the FADS gene locus were determined using pyrosequencing for rs174546 in FADS1 and rs174575 in FADS2. Quantitative lipidomic analysis of polyunsaturated fatty acids in human milk and extracellular vesicles from human milk was completed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.


The rs174546 and rs174575 genotypes were independent predictors of the arachidonic acid content in extracellular vesicles. The rs174546 genotype also predicted eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in extracellular vesicles. The reduced content of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in extracellular vesicles in human milk may be due to lower fatty acid desaturase activity in mothers who are carriers of the A allele in rs174546 or the G allele in rs174575.


The polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of milk extracellular vesicles is predicted by the FADS genotype. These findings yield novel insights regarding extracellular vesicle content and composition that can inform the design of future research to explore how lipid metabolites impact the bioavailability of human milk extracellular vesicles.


This article was originally published in Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN) in 2024.

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