The bovine milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is an important, biologically relevant membrane due to its functional and health properties. Its composition has been thoroughly studied, but its structure, especially the lateral organization of its components, still remains unclear. We have used confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) to investigate the surface structure of the MFGM in globules with different degrees of processing using two types of fluorescently labeled phospholipid probes and a protein dye. Using this technique, we have observed heterogeneities in the distribution of MFGM lipids and proteins relating to the processing and size of the globules. The effect of pretreating the milk (centrifugation, pasteurization-homogenization and churning) was studied by double-staining the surface of the milk fat globules, followed by observation using CLSM, and by determining the phospholipid profile of raw milk, raw cream, processed milk and buttermilk powder. Our findings agree with other techniques by showing that the composition of the MFGM changes with processing through the loss of phospholipids and the adsorption of caseins and whey proteins onto the surface.
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