Biophysical and computational comparison on the binding affinity of three important nutrients to β-lactoglobulin: folic acid, ascorbic acid and vitamin K3

Small globular protein, β-lactoglobulin (βLG), which has significant affinity toward many drugs, is the most abundant whey protein in milk. In this study, the interaction of βLG with three important nutrients, ascorbic acid (ASC), folic acid (FOL), and vitamin K3 (VK3) was investigated by spectroscopic methods (UV–visible and fluorescence) along with molecular docking technique. The results of fluorescence measurements showed that studied nutrients strongly quenched βLG fluorescence in static (FOL and ACS) or static–dynamic combined quenching (VK3) mode. The values of binding constants (KβLG-ASC ~ 4.34 × 104 M−1, KβLG-FOL ~ 1.67 × 104 M−1and KβLG-VK3 ~ 13.49 × 104 M−1 at 310 K) suggested that VK3 and FOL had stronger binding affinity toward βLG than ASC. Thermodynamic analysis indicated that hydrophobic interactions are the major forces in the stability of FOL–βLG complex with enthalpy- and entropy-driving mode while, hydrogen bonds and van der Waals interactions play a major role for βLG–ASC and βLG–VK3 associations. The results of 3D fluorescence FT-IR and UV–Visible measurements indicated that the binding of above nutrients to βLG may induce conformational and micro-environmental changes of protein. Also, there is a reciprocal complement between spectroscopic techniques and molecular docking modeling. The docking results indicate that the ASC, FOL, and VK3 bind to residues located in the subdomain B of βLG. Finally, this report suggests that βLG could be used as an effective carrier of above nutrients in functional foods.