The FEBS journal

PP3 forms stable tetrameric structures through hydrophobic interactions via the C-terminal amphipathic helix and undergoes reversible thermal dissociation and denaturation.

PMID 22099394


The milk protein proteose peptone component 3 (PP3), also called lactophorin, is a small phosphoglycoprotein that is expressed exclusively in lactating mammary tissue. The C-terminal part of the protein contains an amphipathic helix, which, upon proteolytic liberation, shows antibacterial activity. Previous studies indicate that PP3 forms multimeric structures and inhibits lipolysis in milk. PP3 is the principal component of the proteose peptone fraction of milk. This fraction is obtained by heating and acidifying skimmed milk, and in the dairy industry milk products are also typically exposed to treatments such as pasteurization, which potentially could result in irreversible denaturation and inactivation of bioactive components. We show here, by the use of CD, that PP3 undergoes reversible thermal denaturation and that the α-helical structure of PP3 remains stable even at gastric pH levels. This suggests that the secondary structure survives treatment during the purification and possibly some of the industrial processing of milk. Finally, asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation and multi-angle light scattering reveal that PP3 forms a rather stable tetrameric complex, which dissociates and unfolds in guanidinium chloride. The cooperative unfolding of PP3 was completely removed by the surfactant n-dodecyl-β-d-maltoside and by oleic acid. We interpret this to mean that the PP3 monomers associate through hydrophobic interactions via the hydrophobic surface of the amphipathic helix. These observations suggest that PP3 tetramers act as reservoirs of PP3 molecules, which in the monomeric state may stabilize the milk fat globule.