The biological activity of undenatured dietary whey proteins: role of glutathione

Clin Invest Med. 1991 Aug;14(4):296-309.


This study compared the effects of different sources of whey protein concentrate (20 g/100 g diet) and of casein on the spleen, liver, and heart glutathione content of C3H/HeJ mice, and on the immune response of their spleen cells to sheep red blood cells. Body weight curves were similar in all dietary groups. Our data indicate that the humoral immune response is highest in mice fed a dietary whey protein concentrate exhibiting the highest solubility (undenatured conformation) and a greater relative concentration of the thermolabile bovine serum albumin and immunoglobulins. In addition, the mice fed this type of whey protein concentrate exhibit higher levels of tissue glutathione. The presence in the serum albumin fraction of glutamylcysteine groups (rare in food protein) and the specific intramolecular bond as related to the undenatured conformation of the molecule are considered to be key factors in the glutathione-promoting activity of the protein mixture.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects*
  • Caseins / immunology
  • Caseins / pharmacology
  • Dietary Proteins / immunology
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis
  • Glutathione / physiology*
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Hemolytic Plaque Technique
  • Hot Temperature
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H / immunology
  • Milk / analysis
  • Milk Proteins / immunology
  • Milk Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Milk Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Myocardium / chemistry
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Spleen / chemistry
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Whey Proteins


  • Caseins
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Milk Proteins
  • Whey Proteins
  • Glutathione