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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(4):580-596. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1381583. Epub 2017 Oct 17.

Lactoferrin: Structure, function, denaturation and digestion.

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a Food Research and Innovation Centre, School of Science , RMIT University , Melbourne , VIC , Australia.
b Materials Science and Engineering, CSIRO Manufacturing Flagship , Clayton South , VIC , Australia.


Lactoferrin (LF) is a multifunctional protein occurring in many biological secretions including milk. It possesses iron binding/transferring, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. These functional properties intimately depend on the structural integrity of LF especially its higher order conformation. LF is primarily extracted from bovine milk and it is subsequently added into many commercial products such as nutritional supplements, infant formula, cosmetics and toothpaste. LF is sensitive to denaturation induced by temperature and other physicochemical stresses. Hence, the extraction, powder formation processes of LF and processing parameters of LF-containing products have to be optimized to minimise its undesired denaturation. This review documents the advances made on structure-function relationships and discusses the effectiveness of methods used to preserve the structure of LF during thermal processing. Oral delivery, as the most convenient way for administering LF, is also discussed focusing on digestion of LF in oral, gastric and intestinal stages. The effectiveness of methods used to deliver LF to intestinal digestion stage in structurally intact form is also compared. Altogether, this work comprehensively reviews the fate of LF during thermal processing and digestion, and suggests suitable means to preserve its structural integrity and functional properties. Scope of review The manuscript aims at providing a comprehensive review of the latest publications on four aspects of LF: structural features, functional properties, nature and extent of denaturation and gastrointestinal digestion. It also analyses how these publications benefit food and pharmaceutical industries.


Denaturation; Digestion and Application; Drying; Function; Lactoferrin; Structure

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