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J Proteome Res. 2011 Dec 2;10(12):5409-15. doi: 10.1021/pr200660t. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Proteomic characterization of specific minor proteins in the human milk casein fraction.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, United States.


Human milk contains many bioactive proteins that are likely to support the early development of the newborn. The aim of this study was to identify whether there are specific minor proteins associated with the human milk casein micelle prepared by the acid precipitation method. Protein identification was performed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry analysis. Eighty-two proteins were identified in the casein micelle, 18 of which are not present in their whey compartment. Thirty-two of these proteins specifically associated with the casein micelle have not previously been identified in human milk or colostrum. Proteins involved in immune function comprised the major part (28%) of total proteins, and another significant part is involved in metabolism/energy production (22%). Most of the proteins were of extracellular or cytoplasmic origin (accounting for 50 and 29%, respectively). This study indicates that various soluble proteins should be considered as part of the casein compartment, prepared by the acid precipitation method. The data provide new insight not only into the proteomic profile of the human milk casein micelle and its physiological significance, but also into the proper proportion of casein and casein-associated proteins to use in infant formula.

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