Hydrophobicity and aggregation, but not glycation, are key determinants for uptake of thermally processed β-lactoglobulin by THP-1 macrophages

Ying Deng, Coen Govers, Shanna Bastiaan-Net, Nina van der Hulst, Kasper Hettinga, Harry J. Wichers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The aim of this study is to investigate the immunological relevance of modifications of food protein structure due to thermal processing. We investigated the uptake of β-lactoglobulin, treated with 3 different processing methods, by THP-1 macrophages: wet heating (60 °C in solution) and high- or low-temperature (130 °C or 50 °C, respectively) dry heating, combined with either of 8 types of saccharides or without saccharide. The processing method that was applied significantly affected the uptake of BLG by THP-1 macrophages, while the type of saccharide only had an influence in high-temperature dry heated samples. A set of physicochemical parameters of processed samples was determined, to determine the samples' molecular weight, hydrophobicity, amyloid-like structure, surface charge and secondary structure. Analysis of protein structure alterations indicated the uptake to be linked to the wet heating processing method and percentage of α-helix structure, amyloid-like structures, polymers, and hydrophobicity. We hypothesize that both amyloid-like structures and molecular weight were related to the increased hydrophobicity and therefore postulate that the exposure of hydrophobic regions is the leading physicochemical characteristic for the observed uptake of wet heated BLG samples by THP-1 macrophages. This work demonstrates how differential thermal processing of foods, through protein modification, can have an impact on its interaction with the immune system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-113
Number of pages12
JournalFood Research International
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019



  • Aggregation
  • Glycation
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Thermal processing
  • THP-1 macrophage
  • Uptake
  • β-Lactoglobulin

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