Interfacial properties and emulsification performance of thylakoid membrane fragments
Thylakoids membranes are sophisticated, dynamic structures found in plant leaves, composed of protein complexes in a dynamic lipid matrix. The interfacial absorption dynamics and viscoelasticity of thylakoid membranes fragments were measured to assess the properties of the interfacial layer and to elucidate an emulsifying mechanism that includes the role of thylakoid's composition and 3D structure. Thylakoid membranes were extracted from sugar beet leaves by a series of buffer washing, filtration and centrifugation. The extract containing the intact thylakoid membranes was suspended in water through high-pressure homogenisation, which disrupted the structure into membrane fragments. Thylakoid fragments showed surface and interfacial behaviour similar to soft particles or Pickering stabilizers with slow adsorption kinetics. After adsorption, an elastic and stable thin film was formed, indicating formation of new interactions between adjacent thylakoid fragments. In an emulsion, thylakoid fragments stabilised oil droplets against coalescence, despite droplet aggregation occurring already during emulsification. Droplet aggregation occurred by steric and electrostatic bridging, which in turn forms a 3D network where the oil droplets are immobilised, preventing further droplet coalescence or aggregation. It was concluded that both composition and structure of thylakoid fragments determine their emulsifying properties, conferring potential for encapsulation systems, where the search for natural materials is gaining more attention.