Several factors influence the composition of milk. Among these, genetic variation within and between cattle breeds influences milk protein composition, protein heterogeneity, and their posttranslational modifications. Such variations may further influence technological properties, which are of importance for the utilization of milk into dairy products. Furthermore, these potential variations may also facilitate the production of differentiated products (e.g., related to specific breeds or specific genetic variants). The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic variation and relative protein composition of the major proteins in milk from 6 native Norwegian dairy breeds representing heterogeneity in geographical origin, using the modern Norwegian breed, Norwegian Red, as reference. In total, milk samples from 144 individual cows were collected and subjected to liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization/mass spectrometry–based proteomics for identification of genetic and posttranslational modification isoforms of the 4 caseins (αS1-CN, αS2-CN, β-CN, κ-CN) and the 2 most abundant whey proteins (α-lactalbumin and β-lactoglobulin). Relative quantification of these proteins and their major isoforms, including phosphorylations of αS1-CN and glycosylation of κ-CN, were determined based on UV absorbance. The presence and frequency of genetic variants of the breeds were found to be very diverse and it was possible to identify rare variants of the CN, which, to our knowledge, have not been identified in these breeds before. Thus, αS1-CN variant D was identified in low frequency in 3 of the 6 native Norwegian breeds. In general, αS1-CN was found to be quite diverse between the native breeds, and the even less frequent A and C variants were furthermore detected in 1 and 5 of the native breeds, respectively. The αS1-CN variant C was also identified in samples from the Norwegian Red cattle. The variant E of κ-CN was identified in 2 of the native Norwegian breeds. Another interesting finding was the identification of αS2-CN variant D, which was found in relatively high frequencies in the native breeds. Diversity in more common protein genetic variants were furthermore observed in the protein profiles of the native breeds compared with milk from the high-yielding Norwegian Reds, probably reflecting the more diverse genetic background between the native breeds.
- genetic variation
- mass spectrometry
- milk proteins
- posttranslational modifications