Capillary isoelectric focusing and isoelectric buffers: an evolving scenario.

P. G. Righetti, A. Bossi, C. Gelfi

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The present review offers a new look at capillary isoelectric focusing (cIEF) by centering on the most troublesome aspects of the technique, namely: 1) how to modulate the slope of the pH gradient, for increasing resolution (equivalent to pH gradient engineering, as easily available in immobilized pH gradients); and 2) how to keep proteins in solution at (and in the proximity of) the pl value. A simple solution is offered in the first case: addition, to the standard 2-pH-units interval, of separators or spacers, i.e., of amphoteric molecules (either single or in combination) able to locally flatten the pH and increment resolution. Examples of the separation of fetal and glycated hemoglobins are provided. In the second case, a unique solubilization power (while maintaining full protein integrity and enzyme activity) is obtained if class I solubilizers are used. They consist of mixtures of sugars (e.g., sucrose and sorbitol) at ca. 1 M concentration, with zwitterions (up to 1 M) such as the class of nondetergent sulfobetaines, but also taurine and some of the Good's buffers (e.g., CAPS). In these solvents, the protein exists in a state of superhydration and its solubility is greatly augmented. The review ends with an excursus on the use of isoelectric buffers in zone electrophoretic separations. Such isoelectric buffers offer unique advantages: They permit very-high-voltage gradients (up to 1000 V/cm) and thus minimize analysis times (down to a few min in 30-35 cm long capillaries). This results in a marked increase in resolution, due to minimal diffusion-driven peak spreading. Such buffers are finding unique applications for generating peptide maps of tryptic digests of proteins and also in the analysis of oligonucleotides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Capillary Electrophoresis and Microchip Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biochemistry


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