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Fabrication of Protein-Polysaccharide Particulates through Thermal Treatment of Associative Complexes

Mixed solutions of β-lactoglobulin and anionic polysaccharides, specifically pectin, were formed into associative complexes through pH reduction from neutral conditions. Thermal treatment of these associative complexes was investigated as a function of biopolymer composition, heating conditions, pH, and ionic strength. Thermal treatment of β-lactoglobulin-pectin complexes at pH 4.5 – 5.0 was found to create protein-based particulates of consistent and narrow size distribution (diameter ~ 150 – 400 nm). These particulates were relatively stable to further pH adjustment and to high levels of salt (200 NaCl). Particle characteristics were maintained after re-suspending them in aqueous solutions after they have been either frozen or lyophilized. Thermal analysis of β- lactoglobulin-pectin complexes using calorimetry (DSC) and turbidity-temperature scanning indicated that the denaturation of β-lactoglobulin was unaffected by pectin, but protein aggregation was limited by the presence of pectin. Biopolymer particles formed using two different methods were compared: Type 1 – forming β-lactoglobulin nanoparticles by heating, then coating them with pectin; Type 2 – forming particles by heating β-lactoglobulin and pectin together. Type 2 particles had smaller diameters and had better pH and salt stability than Type 1 particles. It was proposed that Type 2 particles had a pectin-saturated surface that limited their aggregation, whereas Type 1 particles had “gaps” in the pectin surface coverage that led to greater aggregation. Finally, the possibility of controlling the size and concentration of biopolymer particles formed by heating β-lactoglobulin-pectin complexes by controlling preparation conditions was studied. Biopolymer particle size and concentration increased with increasing holding time (0 to 30 minutes), decreasing holding temperature (90 to 70 ºC), increasing protein concentration (0 to 2 wt%), increasing pH (4.5 to 5.0), and increasing salt concentration (0 to 50 mol/kg). The influence of these factors on biopolymer particle size was attributed to their impact on protein-polysaccharide interactions, protein denaturation, and protein aggregation kinetics. The knowledge gained from this study will facilitate the rational design of biopolymer particles with specific physicochemical and functional attributes that can be used in the food and other industries, e.g., for encapsulation, texture modification, optical properties modification.
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