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Department of Animal Sciences
The Robert H. Smith Faculty
of Agricultural, Food & Environment

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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The protein and lipid composition of the membrane of milk fat globules depends on their size


Lu, J. ; Argov-Argaman, N. ; Anggrek, J. ; Boeren, S. ; van Hooijdonk, T. ; Vervoort, J. ; Hettinga, K. A. The protein and lipid composition of the membrane of milk fat globules depends on their size. 2016, 99, 4726 - 4738.

Date Published:



In bovine milk, fat globules (MFG) have a heterogeneous size distribution with diameters ranging from 0.1 to 15 µm. Although efforts have been made to explain differences in lipid composition, little is known about the protein composition of MFG membranes (MFGM) in different sizes of MFG. In this study, protein and lipid analyses were combined to study MFG formation and secretion. Two different sized MFG fractions (7.6±0.9 µm and 3.3±1.2 µm) were obtained by centrifugation. The protein composition of MFGM in the large and small MFG fractions was compared using mass-spectrometry-based proteomics techniques. The lipid composition and fatty acid composition of MFG was determined using HPLC-evaporative light-scattering detector and gas chromatography, respectively. Two frequently studied proteins in lipid droplet biogenesis, perilipin-2 and TIP47, were increased in the large and small MFG fractions, respectively. In the large MFG fraction, besides perilipin-2, cytoplasmic vesicle proteins (heat shock proteins, 14–3-3 proteins, and Rabs), microfilaments and intermediate filament-related proteins (actin and vimentin), host defense proteins (cathelicidins), and phosphatidylinositol were higher in concentration. On the other hand, cholesterol synthesis enzymes [lanosterol synthase and sterol-4-α-carboxylate 3-dehydrogenase (decarboxylating)], cholesterol, unsaturated fatty acids, and phosphatidylethanolamine were, besides TIP47, higher in concentration in the small MFG fraction. These results suggest that vesicle proteins, microfilaments and intermediate filaments, cholesterol, and specific phospholipids play an important role in lipid droplet growth, secretion, or both. The observations from this study clearly demonstrated the difference in protein and lipid composition between small and large MFG fractions. Studying the role of these components in more detail in future experiments may lead to a better understanding of fat globule formation and secretion.