Electrophoresis gel media: The state of the art

Pier Giorgio Righetti, Cecilia Gelfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some unique events have occurred in the last few years which might revolutionize the field of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. While it was widely recognized that such matrices could normally be cast with a small pore size distribution, typically of the order of a few nanometers diameter (for protein sieving), recent developments suggest that 'macroporous' gets could also be produced in the domain of polyacrylamides. If constraints to chain motion are imposed during gel polymerization, large-pore structures can he grown. Such constraints can originate either from low temperatures or from the presence of preformed polymers in the gelling solution; in both cases, the growing chains are forced to 'laterally aggregate' via inter-chain hydrogen bond formation. Upon consumption of pendant double bonds, such bundles are frozen in the three-dimensional space by permanent cross-links. As an additional development, a novel photopolymerization system is described, comprising a cationic dye (methylene blue) and a redox couple (sodium toluene sulfinate, a reducer, and diphenyliodonium chloride, a mild oxidizer). Methylene blue catalysis is characterized by a unique efficiency, ensuring >96% conversion of monomers, even in hydro-organic solvents and in the presence of surfactants, which normally quench or completely inhibit the persulphate-driven reaction. In addition, methylene blue-sustained photopolymerization can be operated in the entire pH 3-10 interval, where most other systems fail. Perhaps the most striking novelty in the field is the appearance of a novel monomer (N-acryloylaminopropanol, AAP) coupling a high hydrophilicity with a unique resistance to alkaline hydrolysis. Given the fact that a poly(AAP) matrix is 500 times more stable than a poly(acrylamide) gel, while being twice as hydrophilic, it is anticipated that this novel chemistry will have no difficulties in replacing the old electrophoretic anticonvective media. The review ends with a glimpse at novel sieving media in capillary zone electrophoresis: polymer networks. Such media, by providing an almost infinite range of pore sizes, due to the absence of a rigid support, allow sieving mechanisms to be operative over a wide interval of particle sizes, even up to genomic DNA. Viscous solutions of polymer networks, made with the novel poly(AAP) chemistry, allow repeated use of the same separation column, well above 50 injections. Silica-bound poly(AAP) chains provide effective quenching of electrosmosis and >200 analyses by isoelectric focusing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Biomedical Applications
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 10 1997


  • Gel media
  • N-Acryloylaminoethoxyethanol
  • N-Acryloylaminopropanol
  • Reviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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