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The roles of disulphide and non-covalent bonding in the functional properties of heat-induced whey protein gels

  • Palatasa Havea (a1), Alistair J Carr (a1) and Lawrence K Creamer (a1)


Heat-induced gelation (80 °C, 30 min or 85 °C, 60 min) of whey protein concentrate (WPC) solutions was studied using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), dynamic rheology and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE). The WPC solutions (150 g/kg, pH 6·9) were prepared by dispersing WPC powder in water (control), 10 g/kg sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) solution or 10 mM-dithiothreitol (DTT) solution. The WPC gels containing SDS were more translucent than the control gels, which were slightly more translucent than the gels containing DTT. TEM analyses showed that the SDS-gels had finer aggregate structure (≅10 nm) than the control gels (≅100 nm), whereas the DTT-gels had a more particulate structure (≅200 to 300 nm). Dynamic rheology measurements showed that the control WPC gels had storage modulus (G′) values (≅13500 Pa) that were ≅25 times higher than those of the SDS-gels (≅550 Pa) and less than half those of the DTT-gels after cooling. Compression tests showed that the DTT-gels were more rigid and more brittle than the control gels, whereas the SDS-gels were softer and more rubbery than either the control gels or the DTT-gels. PAGE analyses of WPC gel samples revealed that the control WPC solutions heated at 85 °C for 10 min contained both disulphide bonds and non-covalent linkages. In both the SDS-solutions and the DTT-solutions, the denatured whey protein molecules were in the form of monomers or small aggregates. It is likely that, on more extended heating, more disulphide linkages were formed in the SDS-gels whereas more hydrophobic aggregates were formed in the DTT-gels. These results demonstrate that the properties of heat-induced WPC gels are strongly influenced by non-covalent bonding. Intermolecular disulphide bonds appeared to give the rubbery nature of heat-induced WPC gels whereas non-covalent bonds their rigidity and brittle texture.


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