European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 45–59 | Cite as

A quantitative model of the bovine casein micelle: ion equilibria and calcium phosphate sequestration by individual caseins in bovine milk

  • Etske Bijl
  • Thom Huppertz
  • Hein van Valenberg
  • Carl HoltEmail author
Original Article


The white appearance of skim milk is due to strong light scattering by colloidal particles called casein micelles. Bovine casein micelles comprise expressed proteins from four casein genes together with significant fractions of the total calcium, inorganic phosphate, magnesium and citrate ions in the milk. Thus, the milk salts are partitioned between the casein micelles, where they are mostly in the form of nanoclusters of an amorphous calcium phosphate sequestered by caseins through their phosphorylated residues, with the remainder in the continuous phase. Previously, a salt partition calculation was made assuming that the nanoclusters are sequestered only by short, highly phosphorylated casein sequences, sometimes called phosphate centres. Three of the four caseins have a proportion of their phosphorylated residues in either one or two phosphate centres and these were proposed to react with the nanoclusters equally and independently. An improved model of the partition of caseins and salts in milk is described in which all the phosphorylated residues in competent caseins act together to bind to and sequester the nanoclusters. The new model has been applied to results from a recent study of variation in salt and casein composition in the milk of individual cows. Compared to the previous model, it provides better agreement with experiment of the partition of caseins between free and bound states and equally good results for the partition of milk salts. In addition, new calculations are presented for the charge on individual caseins in their bound and free states.


Milk Calcium homeostasis Phosphoprotein Salt partition 

Supplementary material

249_2018_1330_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (887 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 887 kb)


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Copyright information

© European Biophysical Societies' Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dairy Science and Technology GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.FrieslandCampinaAmersfoortThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems BiologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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