Milk fat globule (MFG) size ranges over 3 orders of magnitude, from less than 200 nm to over 15 µm. The significance of MFG size derives from its tight association with its lipidome and proteome. More specifically, small MFG have relatively higher content of membrane compared with large globules, and this membrane exerts diverse positive health effects, as reported in human and animal studies. In addition, MFG size has industrial significance, as it affects the physicochemical and sensory characteristics of dairy products. Studies on the size regulation of MFG are scarce, mainly because various confounders indirectly affect MFG size. Because MFG size is determined before and during its secretion from mammary epithelial cells, studies on the size regulation of its precursors, the intracellular lipid droplets (LD), have been used as a proxy for understanding the mechanisms controlling MFG size. In this review, we provide evidence for 2 distinct mechanisms regulating LD size in mammary epithelial cells: co-regulation of fat content and triglyceride-synthesis capacity of the cells, and fusion between LD. The latter is controlled by the membrane's polar lipid composition and involves mitochondrial enzymes. Accordingly, this review also discusses MFG size regulation in the in vivo metabolic context, as MFG morphometric features are often modulated under conditions that involve animals' altered energy status.
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© 2019 American Dairy Science Association
- lipid droplet
- milk fat globule