Effect of temperature on self-assembly of Bovine β-Casein above and below isoelectric pH. Structural analysis by cryogenic-transmission electron microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering

Christian Moitzi, Irina Portnaya, Otto Glatter, Ory Ramon, Dganit Danino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations

Abstract

β-Casein is one of the main proteins in milk, recently classified as an intrinsically unstructured protein. At neutral pH, it is composed of a highly polar N-terminus domain and a hydrophobic C-terminus tail. This amphiphilic block-copolymer-like structure leads to self-organization of the protein monomers into defined micelles. Recently, it has been shown that at room temperature, β-casein also self-organizes into micelles in an acidic environment, but the effect of temperature on the micelles' formation and properties at the low pH regime were not explored. In the present study, we used two complementary techniques, cryogenic-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), to characterize at high-resolution the micelles' shape, dimensions, and aggregation numbers and to determine how these properties are affected by temperature between 1 and 40°C. Two different regimes were studied: highly acidic pH where the protein is cationic, and neutral pH, where it is anionic. We found that flat disk-like micelles with low aggregation numbers formed at low temperature in the two pH regimes. Close to neutral pH increase in temperature involves a transition in the micelles' shape and dimensions from flat disks to bulky, almost spheroidal micelles, coupled with a sharp increase in the micelles' aggregation number. In contrast, no effects on the micelles' morphology or aggregation number were detected in the acidic environment within the entire temperature range studied. The self-organization into disk micelles and the lack of effect of temperature in the acidic environment are linked to the unstructured character of the protein and to the charge distribution map. The latter indicates that below the isoelectric pH (pI), β-casein loses the distinct separation of hydrophobic and hydrophilic domains, thereby suggesting that it may no longer be considered as a classical head-tail block-copolymer amphiphile as in neutral pH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3020-3029
Number of pages10
JournalLangmuir
Volume24
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes

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