Prevention of artifactual protein oxidation occurring during sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) acrylamide gel electrophoresis is critical for identifying physiological protein oxidation implicated in human diseases due to the routine use of gel electrophoresis to separate the multiple proteins in proteomic studies. To develop a methodology that completely prevents artifactual protein oxidation in SDS acrylamide gel electrophoresis, cytochrome c was electrophoresed on polyacrylamide gels and subjected to trypsin in-gel digestion followed by tryptic peptide analysis by mass spectrometry. It was found that degassing the acrylamide solution to remove molecular oxygen prior to gel polymerization is a crucial process to protect the electrophoresed protein from reactive oxygen species generated during electrophoresis. However, significant artifactual protein oxidation remains that can only be eliminated entirely, if proteins are electrophoresed on an SDS gel photopolymerized with flavin as the photoinitiator and thioglycolate included in the cathode buffer as a reactive oxygen species scavenger. Using this combination of methodologies, cytochrome c isolated from adult rat heart mitochondria was purified and digested followed by mass spectrometric analysis, demonstrating the requisite high resolution of the polyacrylamide gel and the entire elimination of artifactual oxidation.
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