Gel electrophoresis is a method for separation and analysis of macromolecules (DNA, RNA and proteins) and their fragments, based on their size and charge.
It is used in clinical chemistry to separate proteins by charge and/or size (IEF agarose, essentially size independent) and in biochemistry and molecular biology to separate a mixed population of DNA and RNA fragments by length, to estimate the size of DNA and RNA fragments or to separate proteins by charge. Nucleic acid molecules are separated by applying an electric field to move the negatively charged molecules through an agarose matrix. Shorter molecules move faster and migrate farther than longer ones because shorter molecules migrate more easily through the pores of the gel. This phenomenon is called sieving. Proteins are separated by charge in agarose because the pores of the gel are too large to sieve proteins. Gel electrophoresis can also be used for separation of nanoparticles.
Molecular biology // is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry. Molecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between the different types of DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis as well as learning how these interactions are regulated.
Writing in Nature in 1961, William Astbury described molecular biology as:
A laboratory (// or //; informally, lab) is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed.
Labs used for scientific research take many forms because of the differing requirements of specialists in the various fields of science. A physics lab might contain a particle accelerator or vacuum chamber, while a metallurgy lab could have apparatus for casting or refining metals or for testing their strength. A chemist or biologist might use a wet laboratory, while a psychologist's lab might be a room with one-way mirrors and hidden cameras in which to observe behavior. In some laboratories, such as those commonly used by computer scientists, computers (sometimes supercomputers) are used for either simulations or the analysis of data collected elsewhere. Scientists in other fields will use still other types of laboratories. Engineers use labs as well.
Protein methods are the techniques used to study proteins. There are experimental methods for studying proteins (e.g., for detecting proteins, for isolating and purifying proteins, and for characterizing the structure and function of proteins, often requiring that the protein first be purified). Computational methods typically use computer programs to analyze proteins. However, many experimental methods (e.g., mass spectrometry) require computational analysis of the raw data.
Experimental analysis of proteins typically requires expression and purification of proteins. Expression is achieved by manipulating DNA that encodes the protein(s) of interest. Hence, protein analysis usually requires DNA methods, especially cloning. Other examples include:
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a biochemical technology in molecular biology to amplify a single or a few copies of a piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence.
Developed in 1983 by Kary Mullis, PCR is now a common and often indispensable technique used in medical and biological research labs for a variety of applications. These include DNA cloning for sequencing, DNA-based phylogeny, or functional analysis of genes; the diagnosis of hereditary diseases; the identification of genetic fingerprints (used in forensic sciences and paternity testing); and the detection and diagnosis of infectious diseases. In 1993, Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Michael Smith for his work on PCR.
Nucleic acid electrophoresis is an analytical technique used to separate DNA or RNA fragments by size and reactivity. Nucleic acid molecules which are to be analyzed are set upon a viscous medium, the gel, where an electric field induces the nucleic acids to migrate toward the anode, due to the net negative charge of the sugar-phosphate backbone of the nucleic acid chain. The separation of these fragments is accomplished by exploiting the mobilities with which different sized molecules are able to pass through the gel. Longer molecules migrate more slowly because they experience more resistance within the gel. Because the size of the molecule affects its mobility, smaller fragments end up nearer to the anode than longer ones in a given period. After some time, the voltage is removed and the fragmentation gradient is analyzed. For larger separations between similar sized fragments, either the voltage or run time can be increased. Extended runs across a low voltage gel yield the most accurate resolution. Voltage is, however, not the sole factor in determining electrophoresis of nucleic acids.
The nucleic acid to be separated can be prepared in several ways before separation by electrophoresis. In the case of large DNA molecules, the DNA is frequently cut into smaller fragments using a DNA restriction endonuclease (or restriction enzyme). In other instances, such as PCR amplified samples, enzymes present in the sample that might affect the separation of the molecules are removed through various means before analysis. Once the nucleic acid is properly prepared, the samples of the nucleic acid solution are placed in the wells of the gel and a voltage is applied across the gel for a specified amount of time.
Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), describes a technique widely used in biochemistry, forensics, genetics, molecular biology and biotechnology to separate biological macromolecules, usually proteins or nucleic acids, according to their electrophoretic mobility. Mobility is a function of the length, conformation and charge of the molecule.
As with all forms of gel electrophoresis, molecules may be run in their native state, preserving the molecules' higher-order structure, or a chemical denaturant may be added to remove this structure and turn the molecule into an unstructured linear chain whose mobility depends only on its length and mass-to-charge ratio. For nucleic acids, urea is the most commonly used denaturant. For proteins, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) is an anionic detergent applied to protein sample to linearize proteins and to impart a negative charge to linearized proteins. This procedure is called SDS-PAGE. In most proteins, the binding of SDS to the polypeptide chain imparts an even distribution of charge per unit mass, thereby resulting in a fractionation by approximate size during electrophoresis. Proteins that have a greater hydrophobic content, for instance many membrane proteins, and those that interact with surfactants in their native environment, are intrinsically harder to treat accurately using this method, due to the greater variability in the ratio of bound SDS.