Amino acid which is fundamental to life, chemically speaking it is a molecule made of amine and carboxyl functional groups and to put it in simple terms it is made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and rarely sulphur too is found in the chain like structure of amino acid. In biochemistry it is alpha-amino acids with an organic substituent. The amino and carboxylate groups are attached to the same carbon and difference among alpha amino acids occurs due to which side chain they are attached to of the alpha carbon. They are of different sizes.
There are amino acids which are not of life forms but non natural which are used in technology and industry.
Amino acids are building blocks of protein and also participate in metabolic activities. The twenty two amino acids of proteins are of vast chemical versatility. The biological activity of the protein depends on the chemical properties of amino acids of the proteins. Interestingly the necessary information to determine the way the protein would fold into a three dimensional structure and the stability of that structure are determined by the amino acid sequences contained in the protein. Protein folding and its stability still remain a tantalizing mystery to researchers.
All the twenty two amino acids are necessary for humans to be healthy and the human body can produce only fourteen of them and the rest eight have to be obtained through food. And if you fail to obtain even one of the eight amino acids it would lead to degradation of health.
Food material that contains all the amino acids chains in the form of proteins is called complete protein. That is, consuming that food daily will maintain the required amount of protein to the body and keeps the body healthy. Milk stands out as the best complete protein food. While 25% of protein to Americans comes from diary products, even in the most backward countries milk still remains the most preferred food for growing children.
The casein of milk or the chain structure of amino acids of milk are unique and differ vastly from other proteins. The fat stability of the milk is due to the unique quality of the milk protein or due to the casein structure.
There are five kinds of casein in milk namely Casein, alpha casein, beta casein, kappa casein and gamma casein all with different chain structures and with different number of chains in each molecule. These proteins of milk with their specific properties and interactions in spite of high fat content in the milk, keeps the viscosity of the milk in tact. Based on their structure and physicochemical characters the major proteins of milk are divided into two groups and they are the casein and whey. They behave vastly differently.
The ‘whole casein’ in character and application can be defined as heterogeneous group of phosphoproteins gained from raw skimmed milk. 83 percent of total milk protein is casein protein powder and as earlier mentioned there are four major and one minor casein. Extensive study of the structure of proteins of milk helps nutrition experts to advice as to what kind of milk should be consumed.
The amino acid sequence of alpha casein has 199 amino acids and one segment of the molecule chain between 45 and 89 is highly charged and contains all 8 phosphate groups and 12 carboxyl groups and 2 epsilon amino groups.
25 – 35 percent of total casein is made of Beta casein and it is made of 209 amino acids. The molecule contains 5 phosphates and contains 17% praline randomly distributed throughout the molecule. The segment of molecules from 1 to 42 contains all the phosphate groups. The remaining 80 percent of molecule is very hydrophobic.
Gamma casein comprises of 5% of the total casein of milk and is of heterogeneous group of proteins. Gamma caseins happen due to proteolysis of beta casein. The enzyme plasmid which comes from the blood into the milk in small amounts starts the process of proteolysis to form gamma casein.
Kappa casein is made of 169 amino acids and has one serine phosphate group and two cytosine residues. The 53C terminal amino acids have one phosphate group and all the carbohydrate associated with kappa casein. One important character observed about kappa casein is that the casein micelles size seems to reduce when kappa casein is introduced to milk.
Understanding the structure and properties of casein becomes essential as milk is the best nutrient in the world till date and used widely all over the world.
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