Gelation in protein extracts from cold acclimated and non-acclimated winter rye (Secale cereale L. cv Musketeer).

PMID 23348601


A protein gel is a three-dimensional network consisting of molecular interactions between biopolymers that entrap a significant volume of a continuous liquid phase (water). Molecular interactions in gels occur at junction zones within and between protein molecules through electrostatic forces, hydrogen bonding, hydrophobic associations (van der Waals attractions) and covalent bonding. Gels have the physicochemical properties of both solids and liquids, and are extremely important in the production and stability of a variety of foods, bioproducts and pharmaceuticals. In this study, gelation was induced in phenol extracted protein fractions from non-acclimated (NA) and cold-acclimated (CA) winter rye (Secale cereale L. cv Musketeer) leaf tissue after repeated freeze-thaw treatments. Gel formation only occurred at high pH (pH 12.0) and a minimum of 3-4 freeze-thaw cycles were required. The gel was thermally stable and only a specific combination of chemical treatments could disrupt the gel network. SDS-PAGE analysis identified ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (Rubisco) as the major protein component in the gel, although Rubisco itself did not appear to be a factor in gelation. Raman spectroscopy suggested changes in protein secondary structure during freeze-thaw cycles. Overall, the NA and CA gels were similar in composition and structure, with the exception that the CA gel appeared to be amyloidic in nature based on thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence. Protein gelation, particularly in the apoplast, may confer protection against freeze-induced dehydration and potentially have a commercial application to improve frozen food quality.