• Bioanalysis;
  • Review


An overview of about 100 years of bioanalysis is here disastrously attempted. The beginning of rigorous analytical systems can perhaps be traced back to the building and testing of the analytical ultracentrifuge by Svedberg and the apparatus for moving-boundary electrophoresis of Tiselius, both systems relying on expensive and hard to operate machines. In the sixties, Porath discovered porous beads for the determination of relative molecular mass (Mr) of proteins, based on the principle of molecular sieving. Concomitantly, Svensson and his pupil Vesterberg described a revolutionary principle for fractionating proteins in a nonisocratic environment, based on generation of stable pH gradients in an electric field, a technique that went down to history as isoelectric focusing (IEF). Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), with the brilliant idea of discontinuous buffers, was brought to the limelight and in 1967, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-PAGE was described, permitting easy assessment of protein purity and reasonable measurements of Mr values of denatured polypeptide chains. By the mid seventies, another explosive concept was realized: orthogonal combination of two unrelated techniques, based on surface charge and mass fractionation, namely, two-dimensional (2-D) PAGE already in the very first papers by O'Farrell elaborated to its utmost sophistication. The eighties saw the systematic growth of 2-D PAGE, accompanied by systematic efforts to develop instrumentation for large-scale production of 2-D maps and computer evaluation for 2-D map analysis, based on the sophisticated algorithms adopted by astronomers for mapping stars in the sky. Another fundamental innovation in the field of IEF was the discovery of immobilized pH gradients (IPGs) that brought the much needed reproducibility in 2-D maps while allowing exquisite resolution in very narrow pH ranges. The nineties were definitely the decade of capillary zone electrophoresis, with the concomitant concept of automation and miniaturization in electrokinetic methodologies. Also 2-D map analysis witnessed a big revival, thanks to the adoption of IPGs for the first dimension. The enormous progress of mass spectrometry resulted in first reports on the analysis of macromolecules and the building of data bases on gene and protein banks. The third millennium is, perhaps, exasperating the concept of miniaturization at all costs, while not disdaining increasingly larger maps for 2-D analysis of complex protein mixtures.