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Langmuir. 2012 Dec 18;28(50):17410-8. doi: 10.1021/la303964m. Epub 2012 Dec 6.

The colloidal state of tannins impacts the nature of their interaction with proteins: the case of salivary proline-rich protein/procyanidins binding.

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Univ. Bordeaux and CNRS, Institut des Sciences Moléculaires, UMR 5255, CESAMO, 351 cours de la Libération, Talence F-33405, France.


While the definition of tannins has been historically associated with its propensity to bind proteins in a nonspecific way, it is now admitted that specific interaction also occurs. The case of the astringency perception is a good example to illustrate this phenomenon: astringency is commonly described as a tactile sensation induced by the precipitation of a complex composed of proline-rich proteins present in the human saliva and tannins present in beverages such as tea or red wines. In the present work, the interactions between a human saliva protein segment and three different procyanidins (B1, B3, and C2) were investigated at the atomic level by NMR and molecular dynamics. The data provided evidence for (i) an increase in affinity compared to shortest human saliva peptides, which is accounted for by protein "wraping around" the tannin, (ii) a specificity in the interaction below tannin critical micelle concentration (CMC) of ca. 10 mM, with an affinity scale such that C2 > B1 > B3, and (iii) a nonspecific binding above tannin CMC that conducts irremediably to the precipitation of the tannins/protein complex. Such physicochemical findings describe in accurate terms saliva protein-tannin interactions and provide support for a more subtle description by oenologists of wine astringency perception in the mouth.

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