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J Dairy Sci. 2015 May;98(5):2884-97. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8920. Epub 2015 Feb 20.

Effect of homogenization and pasteurization on the structure and stability of whey protein in milk.

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Dairy and Functional Foods Research Unit, Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Wyndmoor, PA 19038. Electronic address:
Institute of Dairy Science, College of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310029, P. R. China.
Institute of Quality and Standard for Agro-Products, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310021, P. R. China.
Dairy and Functional Foods Research Unit, Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Wyndmoor, PA 19038.


The effect of homogenization alone or in combination with high-temperature, short-time (HTST) pasteurization or UHT processing on the whey fraction of milk was investigated using highly sensitive spectroscopic techniques. In pilot plant trials, 1-L quantities of whole milk were homogenized in a 2-stage homogenizer at 35°C (6.9 MPa/10.3 MPa) and, along with skim milk, were subjected to HTST pasteurization (72°C for 15 s) or UHT processing (135°C for 2 s). Other whole milk samples were processed using homogenization followed by either HTST pasteurization or UHT processing. The processed skim and whole milk samples were centrifuged further to remove fat and then acidified to pH 4.6 to isolate the corresponding whey fractions, and centrifuged again. The whey fractions were then purified using dialysis and investigated using the circular dichroism, Fourier transform infrared, and Trp intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopic techniques. Results demonstrated that homogenization combined with UHT processing of milk caused not only changes in protein composition but also significant secondary structural loss, particularly in the amounts of apparent antiparallel β-sheet and α-helix, as well as diminished tertiary structural contact. In both cases of homogenization alone and followed by HTST treatments, neither caused appreciable chemical changes, nor remarkable secondary structural reduction. But disruption was evident in the tertiary structural environment of the whey proteins due to homogenization of whole milk as shown by both the near-UV circular dichroism and Trp intrinsic fluorescence. In-depth structural stability analyses revealed that even though processing of milk imposed little impairment on the secondary structural stability, the tertiary structural stability of whey protein was altered significantly. The following order was derived based on these studies: raw whole>HTST, homogenized, homogenized and pasteurized>skimmed and pasteurized, and skimmed UHT>homogenized UHT. The methodology demonstrated in this study can be used to gain insight into the behavior of milk proteins when processed and provides a new empirical and comparative approach for analyzing and assessing the effect of processing schemes on the nutrition and quality of milk and dairy product without the need for extended separation and purification, which can be both time-consuming and disruptive to protein structures.


milk processing; molecular structure; spectroscopy; structural stability; whey protein

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