Casein Micelle Structure
One of the unique features of milk is the consolidation of protein into the casein micelle. Using stereo images generated by an electron microscope, Prof. Don McMahon, along with microscopist Mr. William McManus and graduate student Dr. Bonney Ooman, have developed a model of the casein supramolecule structure. The model satisfies the principles observed in nature, such as self aggregation, interdependence, and diversity.
The model indicates how the casein supramolecule is an irregular structure which allows for all possible combinations of proteins. The calcium phosphate is formed into clusters, because of low solubility, and is prevented from nucleating into crystals by being rapidly bound by the calcium-sensitive caseins. These calcium phosphate nanoclusters act as nodes that hold the protein chains together.
For additional information see: McMahon, D.J. and B.S Oommen, 2007. Supramolecular structure of the casein micelle. JDS 91:1709-1721.