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Food Microbiol. 2007 Apr;24(2):115-9. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Chemistry of gluten proteins.

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German Research Centre of Food Chemistry and Hans-Dieter-Belitz-Institute for Cereal Grain Research, D-85748 Garching, Germany.


Gluten proteins play a key role in determining the unique baking quality of wheat by conferring water absorption capacity, cohesivity, viscosity and elasticity on dough. Gluten proteins can be divided into two main fractions according to their solubility in aqueous alcohols: the soluble gliadins and the insoluble glutenins. Both fractions consist of numerous, partially closely related protein components characterized by high glutamine and proline contents. Gliadins are mainly monomeric proteins with molecular weights (MWs) around 28,000-55,000 and can be classified according to their different primary structures into the alpha/beta-, gamma- and omega-type. Disulphide bonds are either absent or present as intrachain crosslinks. The glutenin fraction comprises aggregated proteins linked by interchain disulphide bonds; they have a varying size ranging from about 500,000 to more than 10 million. After reduction of disulphide bonds, the resulting glutenin subunits show a solubility in aqueous alcohols similar to gliadins. Based on primary structure, glutenin subunits have been divided into the high-molecular-weight (HMW) subunits (MW=67,000-88,000) and low-molecular-weight (LMW) subunits (MW=32,000-35,000). Each gluten protein type consists or two or three different structural domains; one of them contains unique repetitive sequences rich in glutamine and proline. Native glutenins are composed of a backbone formed by HMW subunit polymers and of LMW subunit polymers branched off from HMW subunits. Non-covalent bonds such as hydrogen bonds, ionic bonds and hydrophobic bonds are important for the aggregation of gliadins and glutenins and implicate structure and physical properties of dough.

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