casein (kāˈsēn) [key], well-defined group of proteins found in milk, constituting about 80% of the proteins in cow's milk, but only 40% in human milk. Casein is a remarkably efficient nutrient, supplying not only essential amino acids, but also some carbohydrates and the inorganic elements calcium and phosphorus. The calcium caseinates form an insoluble white curd when acidified by hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid, or when milk is soured by bacterial contaminants. Acid casein is used widely in cheese, adhesives, water paints, for coating paper, and in printing textiles and wallpaper. In neutral solutions the enzyme rennin converts one of the caseins to an insoluble curd; most of the protein in cheese is rennet casein curd. When treated with formaldehyde the curd forms casein plastic, used for manufacturing imitation tortoiseshell, jade, and lapis lazuli.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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