Protein cross-linking enzymes in foods can affect physiological characteristics

Protein modification via enzymatic cross-linking is an attractive way for altering food structure so as to create products with increased quality and nutritional value. These modifications are expected to affect not only the structure and physico-chemical properties of proteins but also their physiological characteristics, such as digestibility in the GI-tract and allergenicity. Protein cross-linking enzymes such as transglutaminases are currently commercially available, but also other types of cross-linking enzymes are being explored intensively.

In this study, enzymatic cross-linking of β-casein, the most abundant bovine milk protein, was studied. Enzymatic cross-linking reactions were performed by fungal Trichoderma reesei tyrosinase (TrTyr) and the performance of the enzyme was compared to that of transglutaminase from Streptoverticillium mobaraense (Tgase). Enzymatic cross-linking reactions were followed by different analytical techniques, such as size exclusion chromatography -Ultra violet/Visible - multi angle light scattering (SEC-UV/Vis-MALLS), phosphorus nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P-NMR), atomic force (AFM) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). The research results showed that in both cases cross-linking of β-casein resulted in the formation of high molecular mass (MM ca. 1350 kg mol-1), disk-shaped nanoparticles when the highest enzyme dosage and longest incubation times were used. According to SEC-UV/Vis-MALLS data, commercial β-casein was cross-linked almost completely when TrTyr and Tgase were used as cross-linking enzymes. In the case of TrTyr, high degree of cross-linking was confirmed by 31P-NMR where it was shown that 91% of the tyrosine side-chains were involved in the cross-linking.

The impact of enzymatic cross-linking of β-casein on in vitro digestibility by pepsin was followed by various analytical techniques. The research results demonstrated that enzymatically cross-linked β-casein was stable under the acidic conditions present in the stomach. Furthermore, it was found that cross-linked β-casein was more resistant to pepsin digestion when compared to that of non modified β-casein. The effects of enzymatic cross-linking of β-casein on allergenicity were also studied by different biochemical test methods. On the basis of the research results, enzymatic cross-linking decreased allergenicity of native β-casein by 14% when cross-linked by TrTyr and by 6% after treatment by Tgase.

It can be concluded that in addition to the basic understanding of the reaction mechanism of TrTyr on protein matrix, the research results obtained in this study can have high impact on various applications like food, cosmetic, medical, textile and packing sectors.

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