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Biomacromolecules. 2003 Nov-Dec;4(6):1614-22.

Multiple steps during the formation of beta-lactoglobulin fibrils.

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Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science, Wageningen University, Dreijenplein 6, 6700 EK Wageningen, The Netherlands.


In this study, the heat induced fibrilar aggregation of the whey protein beta-lactoglobulin is investigated at low pH and at low ionic strength. Under these circumstances, tapping mode atomic force microscopy results indicate that the fibrils formed have a periodic structure with a period of about 25 nm and a thickness of one or two protein monomers. Fibril formation is followed in situ using light scattering and proton NMR techniques. The dynamic light scattering results show that the fibrils that form after short heating periods (up to a few hours) disintegrate upon slow cooling, whereas fibrils that form during long heating periods do not disintegrate upon subsequent slow cooling. The NMR results show that even after prolonged heating an appreciable fraction of the protein molecules is incorporated into fibrils only when the beta-lactoglobulin concentration is above approximately 2.5 wt %. The data imply multiple steps during the heat induced formation of beta-lactoglobulin fibrils at low pH and at low ionic strength: (partly) denatured protein monomers are either incorporated into fibrils or form instead a low molecular weight complex that is incapable of forming fibrils. Fibril formation itself also involves (at least) two steps: the reversible formation of linear aggregates, followed by a slow process of "consolidation" after which the fibrils no longer disintegrate upon slow cooling.

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