Design of β-lactoglobulin micro- and nanostructures by controlling gelation through physical variables

Lívia S. Simões, João F. Araújo, António A. Vicente, Óscar L. Ramos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


β-lactoglobulin (β-Lg) is the major protein fraction of bovine whey serum and its principal gelling agent. Its gelation capacity enables conformational changes associated with protein-protein interactions that allow the design of structures with different properties and morphologies. Thus, the aim of this work was to successfully use β-Lg, purified from a commercial whey protein isolate, to develop food-grade micro- (with diameters between 200 and 300 nm) and nano- (with diameters ≤ 100 nm) structures. For this purpose, the phenomena involved in β-Lg gelation were studied under combined effects of concentrations (from 5 to 15 mg mL−1), heating temperature (from 60 to 80 °C) and heating time (from 5 to 25 min) for pH values of 3, 4, 6 and 7. The effects of such conditions on β-Lg structures were evaluated and the protein was fully characterized in terms of size, polydispersity index (PDI) and surface charge (by dynamic light scattering – DLS), morphology (by transmission electron microscopy - TEM) and conformational structure (circular dichroism, intrinsic and extrinsic fluorescence). Results have shown that β-Lg nanostructures were formed at pH 3 (with diameters between 12.1 and 22.3 nm) and at 7 (with diameters between 8.9 and 35.3 nm). At pH 4 structures were obtained at macroscale (i.e., ≥ 6 μm) for all β-Lg concentrations when heated at 70 and 80 °C, independent of the time of heating. For pH 6, it was possible to obtain β-Lg structures either at micro- (245.0 – 266.4 nm) or nanoscale (≤ 100 nm) with the lowest polydispersity (PDI) values (≤ 0.25), in accordance with TEM analyses, for heating at 80 °C for 15 min. Intrinsic and extrinsic fluorescence data and far-UV circular dichroism spectra measurements revealed conformational changes on β-Lg structure that support these evidences. A strict control of the physical and environmental conditions is crucial for developing β-Lg structures with the desired characteristics, thus calling for the understanding of the mechanisms of protein aggregation and intermolecular interaction when designing β-Lg structures with novel functionalities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105357
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFood Hydrocolloids
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Aggregation
  • Bio-based structures
  • Globular proteins
  • Protein interaction
  • Purification
  • Whey proteins


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