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Enzymes Used in the Dairy Industry


In the field of biotechnology there are many food science applications that utilize enzymes. In the dairy industry, some enzymes are required for the production of cheeses, yogurt and other dairy products, while others are used in a more specialized fashion to improve texture or flavour. Five of the more common types of enzymes and their role in the dairy industry are described below.

1. Rennet

Milk contains proteins, specifically caseins, that maintain its liquid form. Proteases are enzymes that are added to milk during cheese production, to hydrolyze caseins, specifically kappa casein, which stabilizes micelle formation preventing coagulation. Rennet and rennin are general terms for any enzyme used to coagulate milk.

2. Other Proteases

Milk contains a number of different types of proteins, in addition to the caseins. Cow milk also contains whey proteins such as lactalbumin and lactoglobulin. The denaturing of these whey proteins, using proteases, results in a creamier yogurt product. Destruction of why proteins is also essential for cheese production.

3. Lactase

Lactase is a glycoside hydrolase enzyme that cuts lactose into it's constituent sugars, galactose and glucose. Without sufficient production of lactase enzyme in the small intestine, humans become lactose intolerant, resulting in discomfort (cramps, gas and diarrhea) in the digestive tract upon injestion of milk products. Lactase is used commercially to prepare lactose-free products, particularly milk, for such individuals. It is also used in preparation of ice cream, to make a creamier and sweeter-tasting product. Lactase is usually prepared from Kluyveromyces sp. of yeast and Aspergillus sp. of fungi.

4. Catalase

The enzyme Catalase has found limited use in one particular area of cheese production. Hydrogen peroxide is a potent oxidizer and toxic to cells. It is used instead of pasteurization, when making certain cheeses such as Swiss, in order to preserve natural milk enzymes that are beneficial to the end product and flavour development of the cheese. These enzymes would be destroyed by the high heat of pasteurization. However, residues of hydrogen peroxide in the milk will inhibit the bacterial cultures that are required for the actual cheese production, so all traces of it must be removed. Catalase enzymes are typically obtained from bovine livers or microbial sources, and are added to convert the hydrogen peroxide to water and molecular oxygen.

5. Lipases

Lipases are used to break down milk fats and give characteristic flavours to cheeses. Stronger flavoured cheeses, for example, the italian cheese, Romano, are prepared using lipases. The flavour comes from the free fatty acids produced when milk fats are hydrolized. Animal lipases are obtained from kid, calf and lamb, while microbial lipase is derived by fermentation with the fungal species Mucor meihei.

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