Environmental Influences on Bovine κ-Casein: Reduction and Conversion to Fibrillar (Amyloid) Structures
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- Farrell, H.M., Cooke, P.H., Wickham, E.D. et al. J Protein Chem (2003) 22: 259. doi:10.1023/A:1025020503769
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The caseins of milk form a unique calcium–phosphate transport complex that provides these necessary nutrients to the neonate. The colloidal stability of these particles is primarily the result of κ-casein. As purified from milk, this protein occurs as spherical particles with a weight average molecular weight of 1.18 million. The protein exhibits a unique disulfide bonding pattern, which (in the absence of reducing agents) ranges from monomer to octamers and above on SDS-PAGE. Severe heat treatment of the κ-casein (90°C) in the absence of SDS, before electrophoresis, caused an increase in the polymeric distribution: up to 40% randomly aggregated high–molecular weight polymers, presumably promoted by free sulfhydryl groups (J. Protein Chem.17: 73–84, 1998). To ascertain the role of the sulfhydryl groups, the protein was reduced and carboxymethylated (RCM-κ). Surprisingly, at only 37°C, the RCM-κ-casein exhibited an increase in weight average molecular weight and tendency to self-association when studied at 3000 rpm by analytical ultracentrifugation. Electron microscopy (EM) of the 37°C RCM sample showed that, in addition to the spherical particles found in the native protein, there was a high proportion of fibrillar structures. The fibrillar structures were up to 600 nm in length. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy was used to investigate the temperature-induced changes in the secondary structure of the native and RCM-κ-caseins. These studies indicate that there was little change in the distribution of secondary structural elements during this transition, with extended strand and κ turns predominating. On the basis of three-dimensional molecular modeling predictions, there may exist a tyrosine-rich repeated sheet-turnsheet motif in κ-casein (residues 15–65), which may allow for the stacking of the molecules into fibrillar structures. Previous studies on amyloid proteins have suggested that such motifs promote fibril formation, and near-ultraviolet CD and thioflavin-T binding studies on RCM-κ-casein support this concept. The results are discussed with respect to the role that such fibrils may play in the synthesis and secretion of casein micelles in lactating mammary gland.