Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
We have recently shown that a few nanograms of protein separated by electrophoresis in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels can be detected by reverse-staining, exploiting the precipitation reaction between zinc(II) and imidazole. Modifications of this method have also been generated to detect gelisolated nucleic acids and bacterial glycolipids. Because there is no recourse to chemical modifiers, the reverse-staining technique has been valuable when micropreparing these biomacromolecules for later use or characterization. The mechanism underlying the reverse-staining effect, however, remains incompletely understood and this has prevented a further generalization of the technique. Here, we have conducted physicochemical experiments and identified zinc imidazolate (ZnIm2) as the main component of the precipitate that forms along the surface of zinc-imidazole reverse-stained gels. Many staining effects observed when gels containing electrophoretically separated biopolymers are subjected to zinc-imidazole stains have been rationalized. The reverse-staining method has been vastly generalized, now allowing the detection of proteins and glycolipids as well as complexes of these macromolecules in native gels. We demonstrate the application of the reverse-staining technique in situations where Coomassie blue or silver staining was inappropriate or failed to produce detection of the species of interest. The present generalization of the reverse-staining method facilitated the characterization of biomacromolecular interaction partners in mixtures of bacterial glycolipids and human tears.
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