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Gel Filtration Chromatography – Principle, Components, Steps, Types, Application

Table of Contents

What is Gel Filtration Chromatography?

  • Gel filtration chromatography, commonly known as size exclusion chromatography, is a technique for separating biomolecules by molecular weight or size. It is a versatile and gentle chromatographic technology that separates components effectively and in high yield.
  • The stationary phase in gel filtration chromatography is a porous gel matrix. This gel matrix is made of a hydrated, sponge-like substance that has a specified porosity. The mobile phase, which is usually a buffer solution or an aqueous phase, comprises molecules of various sizes. The porosity of the gel beads in the column allows components of varied sizes to be kept or eliminated.
  • Partition chromatography is the underlying principle of gel filtration chromatography. Molecules are classified as mobile or stationary depending on their fractionation range or exclusion limit. The size range of the gel beads or resins utilised in the column is referred to as the fractionation range. Larger molecules above the fractionation range elute faster and enter the stationary phase more quickly. Molecules within the fractionation range, on the other hand, travel more slowly. This allows for the isolation and study of biomolecules based on size.
  • Gel filtration chromatography is very useful for isolating and purifying biomolecules like proteins, peptides, and oligonucleotides. This approach can selectively retain or exclude particles based on changes in size, hydrophobicity, and molecular charges by utilising porous gel beads with particular porosity. It is an efficient approach for determining the size of various biomolecules.
  • In practise, gel filtration chromatography entails passing an aqueous buffer through a porous polymer gel matrix-containing chromatographic column. The stationary phase is the liquid that enters the pores of the gel matrix, while the mobile phase is the liquid outside the matrix. Biomolecules of various sizes are separated when the buffer solution runs through the column based on their interactions with the gel beads, enabling for their isolation and purification.
  • Overall, gel filtration chromatography is a useful technology in the purification and study of biomolecules. It is a gentle and effective method of separating components according on their molecular weight or size, and it has a wide range of applications in a variety of scientific areas.

Phases in Gel Filtration Chromatography

There are two main phases in gel filtration chromatography: the mobile phase and the stationary phase.

  • Mobile phase: The solvent that travels through the chromatographic column is referred to as the mobile phase. Before inserting the sample into the column, it must be prepared by diluting it in appropriate organic solvents. This contributes to compatibility with the mobility phase. Following that, the prepared sample is filtered and passed through the gel filtration column. The components of the sample are separated as the mobile phase passes through the column.
  • Stationary phase: The column, which is packed with microporous gel beads, represents the stationary phase. These gel beads serve as the chromatographic process’s support material. In gel filtration chromatography, common stationary phases include hydroxypropylated Sephadex, cross-linked polyacrylamide, and agarose gel. These materials have a porous structure with particular porosity, allowing components to be separated based on their size or molecular weight. In gel filtration chromatography, the stationary phase is critical to the separation process. It interacts with the sample components based on their size disparities. Larger molecules or particles that cannot enter the pores of the gel beads flow more quickly through the column, whereas smaller molecules or particles are better held inside the gel matrix. Because of the differential interaction with the stationary phase, components can be separated and purified based on their molecular size.

In summary, gel filtration chromatography consists of two phases: the mobile phase (the solvent that transports the sample through the column) and the stationary phase (the gel-packed column that serves as the support material). The mobile phase allows components to flow through the column more easily, while the stationary phase interacts with components selectively based on their size, allowing them to be separated.

Principle of Gel Filtration Chromatography – Gel Filtration chromatography principle

The separation of molecules based on their molecular weight or size differences is the basis of gel filtration chromatography, also known as size exclusion chromatography. A packed bed of porous gel beads is used as the stationary phase within a column in this approach.

The gel filtration medium is placed into the column to generate a bed of spherical particles in order to achieve a separation. These particles have been chosen because of their stability, inertness, lack of reactivity, and adsorptive qualities. After that, the packed bed is equilibrated with a buffer solution that fills the pores of the matrix as well as the spaces between the particles. The fixed phase is the liquid inside the pores, whereas the mobile phase is the liquid outside the particles.

The stationary phase in gel filtration chromatography is a porous polymer matrix with pores that are entirely filled with the mobile phase solvent. The molecules in the sample are pumped through specialised columns containing this microporous packing material, also known as gel beads.

The separation is based on the premise that molecules larger than a particular size are fully barred from entering the pores of the gel beads, whilst smaller molecules can enter the pores partially or completely. Larger molecules are unable to enter the gel matrix and pass through the column freely, eluting earlier as the mobile phase runs through the column. Smaller molecules, on the other hand, can enter the gel pores to variable degrees, causing them to be delayed or slowed in their elution from the column.

The size exclusion chromatography principle is based on the separation of biomolecules based on differences in molecular weight or size. As the packing material in the chromatography column, spherical gel beads with appropriate porosity are used in the gel filtration procedure. The components of a liquid combination flow through this column, and depending on the elution limit, some molecules elute sooner or later.

The elution limit is a parameter that affects whether molecules are retained or excluded within the packing material. those with a larger molecular weight than the elution limit will elute first, while those with a lower molecular weight or size will elute later. In gel filtration chromatography, particles are separated based on their size in this manner.

Components of Gel Filtration Chromatography

  1. Stationary Phase 
  2. The Mobile Phase 
  3. The Columns 
  4. The Pump
  5. Detectors

1. Stationary phase

Comprised of semi-permeable and polymer gel beads that are porous and have a an equivocal range of pores.

Properties of gel beads

  • Chemically inert
  • Mechanically Stable 
  • It has a homogeneous and ideal porous structure (wide pores with a small size, which gives the lowest resolution).
  • A uniform particle size and pore.
  • The size of the pore of the gel needs to be to be controlled.

Types of Gel

a. Dextran gel

  • natural linear polysaccharide that contains one link
  • insoluble when in the aqueous media
  • made by the cross-linking of OH groups of dextran, and an epichlorohydrin dispersion in an organic medium
  • Chemical stability is high

b. Agarose gel

  • large porous size gel
  • formed from the neutral fraction of agar and the agarose units cross-linked with alternating 1,3 linked-b-D-galactose and 1,4-linked 3,6-anhydro-a-L-galactose units
  • created below 30 degrees C
  • Useful for large molecule separation

c. Polyamide gel

  • Low solubility
  • Used to separate organic acids, phenols etc.
  • ability to create strong H-bonds between its amides and phenolic groups of the -OH group.

2. The Mobile Phase: Made of a liquid which is used to dissolve biomolecules and create the mobile phase, which allows high detection responses and soaking the surface of the packing. 

3. Columns: Columns Commercially Available include: 

  • Analytical column- 7.5–8mm diameters, 
  • Preparative columns-22–25mm 
  • Usual column lengths-25, 30, 50, and 60 cm.  
  • Narrow bore columns- 2–3mm diameter have been introduced

4. The pump: Are an syringe pump or a reciprocating pump that have a very steady flow

5. Detectors: 

Concentration sensitive detectors

  • Bulk Property Detectors- Refractive Index (RI) Detector
  • Solute Property Detectors- Ultraviolet (UV) Absorption Detector
  • Evaporative Detectors- Evaporative Light Scattering Detector (ELSD)

Molar mass sensitive detectors

  • Light Scattering Detectors
  • Low Angle Light Scattering (LALS) Detectors
  • Multiangle Light Scattering (MALS) detectors

Types of Gel Filtration Chromatography

There are two main types of gel filtration chromatography: group separations and high-resolution fractionation.

  1. Group Separations: Group separations involve the separation of components in a sample into two major groups based on their size range. This type of gel filtration chromatography is useful for removing contaminants of either high or low molecular weight from the sample. For example, it can be used to remove substances like phenol red from culture fluids or to desalt and exchange buffers. Group separations are valuable for preparative purposes, where the goal is to obtain a purified sample by selectively eliminating unwanted molecules based on their size.
  2. High-resolution fractionation of biomolecules: On the other hand, high-resolution fractionation is focused on achieving a detailed separation of components in a sample based on their molecular size differences. This type of gel filtration chromatography allows for the isolation and purification of specific components, such as separating monomers from aggregates or purifying individual biomolecules. It can also be used to determine the molecular weight of a molecule or perform a molecular weight distribution analysis, providing insights into the composition of the sample. High-resolution fractionation is particularly useful in research and analytical applications where a thorough understanding of the sample’s composition and purity is desired.

Both group separations and high-resolution fractionation play important roles in gel filtration chromatography, enabling the purification, analysis, and characterization of biomolecules based on their size differences. The specific type of gel filtration chromatography chosen depends on the objectives of the experiment or process, whether it is focused on bulk separation of components or achieving detailed fractionation and analysis of molecular species.

Steps in Gel Filtration Chromatography – Gel filtration chromatography procedure

Steps in Gel Filtration Chromatography:

  1. Prepare the Column:
  • Pack spherical gel beads, which serve as the gel filtration medium, into a column.
  • Ensure the bed is packed evenly and tightly.
  1. Equilibrate with Buffer:
  • Fill the column with a buffer solution, which serves as the mobile phase.
  • The buffer fills the pores of the gel matrix and the spaces between the particles.
  1. Apply the Sample:
  • Apply the sample solution to the column.
  • The sample contains the mixture of molecules to be separated.
  1. Passage of Buffer and Sample:
  • The buffer and sample solution flow through the column simultaneously.
  • The movement is driven by gravity or by applying pressure.
  1. Diffusion and Partitioning:
  • Molecules in the sample diffuse in and out of the pores of the gel matrix.
  • This diffusion process is also referred to as partitioning between the mobile phase and the stationary phase (gel matrix).
  1. Differential Movement of Molecules:
  • Smaller molecules can move further into the gel matrix and thus stay longer on the column.
  • Larger molecules, unable to diffuse into the pores, pass through the column more rapidly.
  1. Continuous Flow and Separation:
  • As the buffer continuously passes through the column, molecules larger than the pores of the gel matrix are unable to enter the pores and elute quickly.
  • Smaller molecules can diffuse into the pores and are delayed in their passage down the column.
  • Separation of components occurs at different intervals along the column.
  1. Detection and Analysis:
  • After separation, the components can be detected and analyzed using various methods (e.g., UV spectroscopy, fluorescence, or mass spectrometry).
  • The isolated components can be further characterized or utilized for specific purposes.

In gel filtration chromatography, these steps allow for the separation of components based on their size differences, with smaller molecules being delayed and retained in the gel matrix while larger molecules pass through the column more rapidly.

Factors affection on Resolution of gel filtration

Many factors influence the final resolution (the degree of separation between peaks of a gel

filtration separation): These include: (1) matrix choice, (2) sample size and concentration, (3) column parameters, (4) choice of eluent, (5) effect of flow rate, and (6) column cleaningand storage.

1. Matrix Choice

The primary consideration when creating an extensive chromatographic purification procedure concerns the properties of the matrix. The solid particles contained in the columns used for chromatographic recovery are called matrix. The matrix must be macroporous, hydrophilic and hydrophilic. It should also be rigid, sphericaland that is chemically solid, stable durable, and reusable. It should also be easily accessible and affordable.

Example of the commonly used matrix;

  • Superdex is the best option to get high-resolution, quick time to run and high recovery.
  • Sephacryl is a good choice for quick high recovery separations in industrial and laboratory scales.
  • Superose has a broad separation range, however it does not work well for large and industrial-scale separations.
  • Sephadex is ideal for fast group separations, such as the desalting process and exchange of buffers. Sephadex is utilized in laboratories and in production, prior to and after purification processes for chromatography.
    • Sephadex G-25 is suggested in the vast majority of separations which involve globular proteins. This medium is ideal for eliminating salt and other minor pollutants from molecules with a size greater than Mr 5 000.
    • Sephadex G-10 is ideal for segregating biomolecules, such as Peptides (Mr greater than 700) and lesser compounds (Mr 100+).
    • Sephadex G-50 is a good choice to separate molecules with a value of more than 30 000 from molecules with a value of less than 500, such as protein that is labeled or DNA from unlabeled label.

2. Sample Size and Concentration

The resolution of gel-filtration chromatography is dependent on the use to the specimen in a very small amount, usually 1-5 % of the bed volume. Because of this, gel-filtration chromatography is characterized by a lower capacity for handling of samples, and consequently, should be conducted later in the purification process in cases where the number of molecules present in the sample are small. 

The amount of the sample put into the column is limited because of its viscosity (which increases with the amount of sample) in relation to the fluid being used to make it. High viscosity results in an irregular flow of the sample through the column (with consequent reduction in clarity) as well, and in certain situations, may reduce the flow rate of the column. If you are separating proteins using gel filtering, the sample must not contain a concentration of protein greater than 20 mg/mL.

3. Column Parameters

The best resolution in gel-filtration chromatography is attained with long columns. The ratio of the column’s length to diameter can vary between 1:20 and 1:100.

4. Choice of Eluent

Because gel-filtration chromatography distinguishes molecules solely by their size this technique is independent of the kind of eluent employed. Elution conditions (pH, essential ions, cofactors, protease inhibitors etc.) must therefore be chosen to meet the needs of the molecule in question. But, the Ionic strength of the liquid must be sufficient to reduce protein-matrix and protein interactions via electrical or van der Waals interactions. In addition, adding 0.1 M NaCl or KCl to the eluent in order to prevent these interactions is popular.

5. Effect of Flow Rate

Low flow rates provide the highest resolution during gel-filtration chromatography because resolution and flow rate are inextricably related. The optimal flow rate to resolve proteins is 2 mL/cm2/h. However, greater flow rates may be employed, particularly when using rigid matrices, such as that of the Sephacryl HR range of GE Healthcare (30 mL/cm2/h). Unfortunately, the lower flow rates result in longer intervals of separation. So, a compromise in resolution and speed should be made.

6. Column Cleaning and Storage

The majority of gel-filtration matrices can be cleaned using 0.2 M sodium hydroxide or other nonionic detergents. If left unattended for long durations, the they should be stored at 4°C in darkness in the presence of an antimicrobial (e.g., 0.02-0.05 % sodium azide w/v or 20 % v/v of ethanol).

Gel Filtration Chromatography Applications

Applications of Gel Filtration Chromatography:

  1. Purification of Biological Macromolecules:
  • Gel filtration chromatography plays a crucial role in purifying enzymes, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, proteins, and other biological macromolecules.
  • It helps in removing contaminants and obtaining pure samples of these biomolecules.
  1. Refolding of Denatured Proteins:
  • Gel filtration can be utilized to facilitate the refolding of denatured proteins by carefully controlling buffer conditions.
  • By providing an optimal environment, the gel filtration technique aids in the proper folding and recovery of protein structure.
  1. Protein Fractionation:
  • Gel filtration is used in protein fractionation experiments, where different protein components can be separated based on their size differences.
  • This allows for the isolation and analysis of specific protein fractions within a mixture.
  1. Molecular Weight Determination:
  • Gel filtration chromatography is employed to determine the molecular weight of biomolecules.
  • By comparing the elution profile of the sample with standards of known molecular weights, the approximate size of the biomolecules can be estimated.
  1. Separation of Various Substances:
  • Gel filtration chromatography enables the separation of sugar, proteins, peptides, rubbers, and other substances based on their size differences.
  • It is particularly useful for separating and purifying biomolecules with varying molecular sizes.
  1. Examination of Quaternary Structure:
  • Gel filtration can be used to examine the quaternary structure of purified proteins.
  • By analyzing the elution pattern of protein complexes and subunits, insights into their quaternary structure and interactions can be gained.
  1. Renaturation of Denatured Proteins:
  • Gel filtration units can facilitate the renaturation of denatured proteins by providing a controlled environment for their proper folding and reassembly.

Gel filtration chromatography is a versatile technique with applications across various fields of research, including biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology. It aids in the purification, fractionation, and characterization of biomolecules based on their size differences, offering valuable insights into their structure and function.

More Functions of Gel Filtration Chromatography;

  1. Separation of Proteins and Peptides: Gel-filtration chromatography has been successfully used in the purification of numerous proteins and peptides from various sources. It allows for separation under conditions that maintain the stability and activity of the molecules of interest, resulting in high recoveries of activity. Examples include the purification of therapeutic proteins, enzymes, and proteins for industrial applications.
  2. Size-Exclusion Reaction Chromatography: Gel-filtration chromatography can be utilized for controlling and separating reactions that alter the molecular size of proteins, such as PEGylation (covalent attachment of PEG). Size-exclusion reaction chromatography (SERC) enables the selective removal of reactants and products based on their partitioning within the mobile phase, leading to the desired final product size.
  3. Separation of Nucleic Acids and Nucleotides: Gel-filtration chromatography has long been employed to separate various nucleic acid species, including DNA, RNA, tRNA, and nucleotide bases. It can effectively separate different DNA forms, such as linear and circular double-stranded DNA, from other nucleic acids.
  4. Virus Particles: Gel-filtration chromatography has been utilized in the purification and separation of virus particles from contaminating proteins. It offers an efficient and economical method for the purification of various viruses, including influenza virus and turkey coronavirus.
  5. Endotoxin Removal: Gel-filtration chromatography has been investigated as a means of removing bacterial endotoxins from preparations of recombinant human proteins. The technique, utilizing a size-exclusion column, effectively removes spiked endotoxins, ensuring the production of endotoxin-free biologics.
  6. Absolute Size-Exclusion Chromatography (ASEC): ASEC combines gel-filtration chromatography with dynamic light scattering (DLS) to measure the absolute size distribution profile of macromolecules as they elute from the chromatographic system. It provides enhanced DLS resolution, allowing for the study of protein aggregation and behavior in complex fluids.
  7. Molecular Mass Estimation: Gel-filtration chromatography is an excellent method for determining the relative molecular masses of proteins. By constructing a calibration curve using standard proteins of known molecular weights, the elution volume of an unknown protein can be used to estimate its molecular weight.
  8. Group Separations: Gel-filtration chromatography can be employed for rapid group separations, where molecules are separated based on their size. It allows for buffer exchanges, desalting of labile samples, removal of phenol from nucleic acid preparations, and elimination of inhibitors from enzymes.

Advantages of Gel Filtration Chromatography

Gel filtration chromatography, also known as size exclusion chromatography, has various features that make it an important technology for biomolecule separation and analysis. The following are some of the primary benefits of gel filtration chromatography:

  • Versatility: Gel filtration chromatography is extremely adaptable and can handle a wide range of sample types, including biomolecules that are sensitive to pH, temperature, metal ions, co-factors, or harsh environmental conditions. This adaptability enables researchers to customise the chromatographic settings to match the individual needs of their investigation.
  • Sample Integrity Preservation: One notable advantage of gel filtration chromatography is that it does not involve sample binding to the chromatography media. As a result, the buffer composition has no direct effect on resolution, ensuring that separation stays consistent and unaffected by changes in buffer conditions. This is in contrast to ion exchange or affinity chromatography, where buffer composition can have a direct impact on separation.
  • Rapid Analysis: Gel filtration chromatography has a shorter analysis time than other chromatographic techniques. Because the separation process is relatively quick, efficient analysis and great sample throughput are possible.
  • Well-Defined Separation: Gel filtration chromatography allows for the separation of molecules based on their size or molecular weight. Larger molecules are rejected and elute earlier as the sample passes through the porous gel beads, whereas smaller molecules can enter and elute later. This produces distinct peaks in the chromatogram, allowing for obvious separation of the sample’s components.
  • High Resolution and Sensitivity: Gel filtration chromatography can achieve narrow bands and high sensitivity, allowing for the detection and quantification of low-abundance chemicals in a sample. This property makes it helpful for applications requiring high resolution and sensitivity, such as protein purification and analysis.
  • Minimal Sample Loss: Gel filtration chromatography reduces sample loss since the molecules of interest are not linked to the chromatography medium. This feature ensures that the bulk of the sample is retrieved, allowing for downstream applications or additional analysis.
  • Minimal Mobile Phase Requirement: When compared to other chromatographic procedures, gel filtration chromatography requires a modest amount of mobile phase (buffer). This not only lowers the expense of running the chromatography, but also makes it more environmentally friendly by reducing solvent usage.
  • Flow Rate adjustment: Gel filtration chromatography enables for exact adjustment of the flow rate, allowing for greater separation flexibility. Researchers can optimise the flow rate based on the properties of the sample and the desired separation conditions, improving the chromatographic process’s efficiency and reproducibility.

In summary, gel filtration chromatography has many advantages, including its versatility, sample integrity preservation, quick analysis, well-defined separation, high resolution and sensitivity, minimum sample loss, low mobile phase demand, and flow rate control. These benefits make it an effective tool for the purification, analysis, and characterization of biomolecules in a variety of scientific and industrial settings.

Limitations of Gel Filtration Chromatography

While gel filtration chromatography has many advantages, it also has several limits that researchers should be aware of. Some of the major limitations of gel filtration chromatography are as follows:

  • Limited Resolution: Gel filtration chromatography is limited in its ability to resolve a high number of peaks in a short time frame. This is especially true when dealing with complicated combinations including many components with similar molecular sizes. The approach may not be able to offer enough separation to identify between closely related compounds, resulting in broad peaks and poor resolution.
  • Pre-Filtration Requirement: To ensure the effective operation of the gel filtration column and to avoid interference from dust and particulate matter, the test sample must be pre-filtered before being introduced into the chromatographic system. Failure to remove these pollutants can result in column clogging or detector interference, reducing the quality and dependability of the data.
  • Limited Separation for Similar Molecular Masses: Gel filtration chromatography may not be able to offer sufficient separation when the molecular masses of the molecules in a sample are very near to each other. The approach is based on the differential exclusion or inclusion of molecules based on their size, and if the differences in molecular masses are small, the separation may fail.
  • Clogging Potential: Gel filtration chromatography columns are susceptible to clogging if the test sample contains particles or debris. To avoid clogging, the sample should be thoroughly filtered before being introduced into the chromatographic machine. Failure to remove particulate matter can interrupt the flow of the mobile phase, resulting in a degraded separation and erroneous findings.
  • Interference from Contaminants: Any dust or particle debris present within the instrument or chromatographic system can interfere with the interpretation of data or produce abnormal results. Contaminants can modify the elution profile, change the form of the peaks, or add noise to the detection system, resulting in inaccurate or misleading data.

When planning and evaluating gel filtration chromatography investigations, it is critical to keep these constraints in mind. Understanding potential challenges and optimising experimental conditions might assist researchers in mitigating these constraints and obtaining accurate results. To overcome these constraints and accomplish the appropriate separation or purification goals, supplementary chromatographic techniques or additional purification stages may be required in some circumstances.

Gel Filtration Chromatography Mechanism In detail (What happened during Gel filtration chromatography?)

  • Gel filtration chromatography, commonly known as size exclusion chromatography, is a separation and analysis technique for molecules based on their size. The interaction of molecules with a porous matrix within a column is the mechanism of gel filtration chromatography.
  • In gel filtration chromatography, the column is packed with a porous matrix, which is frequently made up of cross-linked agarose or dextran beads. These beads form a stationary phase through which a buffer solution, referred to as the mobile phase, flows. The fractionation range of the porous matrix is determined by the size of its pores.
  • When a sample mixture is injected into the gel filtration column, molecules too big to penetrate the matrix pores remain in the liquid phase and pass through the column in the interstitial spaces between the beads. These bigger molecules elute faster because their journey along the column is shorter. Smaller molecules and complexes that can enter the pores of the matrix, on the other hand, become part of the stationary phase and travel a longer trip through the column, resulting in slower elution.
  • The components elute in gel filtration chromatography in a size-dependent manner. Components within the column’s fractionation range will elute first in the volume of voids because they are unable to penetrate the pores and flow more swiftly through the column. This is known as the “exclusion” phenomenon. The “exclusion limit” of the column is the smallest size that can remain in the liquid phase but not enter the stationary phase.
  • The molecules in the sample are separated based on their size as they pass through the gel filtration column. Smaller molecules can enter the matrix pores and interact more intensely, resulting in delayed elution. Larger molecules, which cannot easily access the pores, move faster across the column and elute earlier.
  • Several parameters, notably the size of the beads in the matrix, can influence the efficiency and resolution of gel filtration chromatography. Smaller bead sizes often provide improved resolution because they allow for better distinction between different sized molecules. Other factors such as buffer composition, ionic strength, and pH can also have an impact on the fractionation range and elution rates.
  • Gel filtration chromatography is used to selectively remove particular components in some applications, such as buffer exchange, desalting, or elimination of tiny molecules. Salts and smaller compounds can easily access the matrix pores but are obstructed, resulting in slower passage across the column when compared to bigger molecules. This enables the isolation and elimination of undesirable components from the sample.
  • It should be noted that the elution duration and exclusion limits for the fractionation of complex mixtures, particularly proteins, may require empirical determination due to sample specific properties.
  • Overall, gel filtration chromatography uses the differential interactions of molecules with a porous matrix to create size-based separation, delivering vital information about a sample’s size distribution and molecular weight.

What are the criteria for Gel?

Several parameters should be addressed while selecting a gel for gel filtration chromatography. These are some of the criteria:

  • Chemical Composition: The gel used in gel filtration chromatography should be inert and should not interact with the molecules being analysed or purified. This ensures that no bias or artefacts are introduced into the separation process by the gel.
  • Mechanical Solidity: The gel must be mechanically solid in order to keep its structure and integrity during the chromatographic process. This enables the gel to endure the flow of the mobile phase as well as the pressure applied to the column without disintegrating or collapsing.
  • Porous Structure: A repeatable, porous structure should be carefully constructed into the gel. The fractionation range and the size of the molecules that can be efficiently separated are determined by the porosity of the gel. To guarantee constant separation and precise detection of the analytes’ molecular weight or size, the holes should be homogeneous in size.
  • Particle Homogeneity: The size distribution of the gel particles should be uniform. This is essential for achieving homogenous gel packing in the chromatography column and maintaining consistent flow properties throughout the column. Homogeneous particle size distribution aids in repeatability in separation and precise estimation of the molecular weights of the molecules under consideration.

These parameters are critical for choosing a gel for gel filtration chromatography. A well-chosen gel ensures consistent and reproducible separations, precise molecular weight determination, and minimum interference with the molecules being analysed or purified.

FAQ

What is gel filtration chromatography?

Gel filtration chromatography, also known as size-exclusion chromatography, is a technique used for the separation and purification of biomolecules based on their size. It relies on the differential partitioning of molecules between a porous stationary phase (gel matrix) and a mobile phase (buffer) as they pass through a chromatography column.

How does gel filtration chromatography work?

In gel filtration chromatography, a gel matrix with pores of controlled size is packed into a column. When a sample containing molecules of different sizes is applied to the column, smaller molecules can enter the pores of the gel matrix, leading to slower elution, while larger molecules cannot enter the pores and are eluted first. Thus, the molecules are separated based on their size.

What is the purpose of gel filtration chromatography?

The main purpose of gel filtration chromatography is to separate and purify biomolecules based on their size. It is particularly useful for removing contaminants, separating different forms of biomolecules (e.g., aggregates, monomers), and obtaining fractions of specific sizes.

What are the advantages of gel filtration chromatography?

Gel filtration chromatography offers several advantages, including the ability to separate molecules under gentle conditions that maintain their stability and activity. It does not require any specific binding interactions, allowing for high recoveries of activity. Gel filtration chromatography is also relatively easy to perform, reliable, and scalable.

What are the limitations of gel filtration chromatography?

Despite its advantages, gel filtration chromatography has some limitations. It has lower resolution compared to other chromatographic techniques because none of the molecules are retained by the column. Proteolysis can be a problem when separating proteins, as the target protein can become a substrate for proteases present in the mixture, resulting in reduced recovery of activity. Gel filtration columns require large volumes of eluent, leading to higher running costs.

What types of biomolecules can be separated using gel filtration chromatography?

Gel filtration chromatography can be used to separate a wide range of biomolecules, including proteins, peptides, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids. It is particularly effective for separating proteins and peptides based on their molecular size.

What factors should be considered when choosing a gel filtration chromatography media?

Several factors should be considered when selecting a gel filtration chromatography media, including the fractionation range (size range of molecules that can be separated), size exclusion limit (maximum size of molecules that can enter the gel matrix pores), operating pressure, flow rate, sample viscosity, pH range, tolerance for organic solvents and additives, and operating temperature. The choice of media depends on the specific requirements of the separation and the properties of the biomolecules being studied.

Can gel filtration chromatography be used for preparative-scale purifications?

Yes, gel filtration chromatography can be scaled up for preparative-scale purifications. Larger columns with higher bed volumes are used to accommodate larger sample volumes and achieve higher yields of purified biomolecules.

Can gel filtration chromatography be used for analytical purposes?

Yes, gel filtration chromatography is commonly used for analytical purposes. It can provide information about the size distribution and oligomeric state of biomolecules, as well as their relative molecular masses.

Are there any alternative techniques to gel filtration chromatography?

Yes, there are alternative chromatographic techniques for biomolecule separation, such as ion exchange chromatography, affinity chromatography, hydrophobic interaction chromatography, and reversed-phase chromatography. The choice of technique depends on the specific properties of the biomolecules and the separation requirements.

References

  • Prapulla, S.G. (2014). Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology || FERMENTATION (INDUSTRIAL) | Recovery of Metabolites. , (), 822–833. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-384730-0.00109-9 
  • Stellwagen, Earle (2009). [Methods in Enzymology] Guide to Protein Purification, 2nd Edition Volume 463 || Chapter 23 Gel Filtration. , (), 373–385. doi:10.1016/S0076-6879(09)63023-8 
  • Evans, David R.H. (2009). [Methods in Enzymology] Guide to Protein Purification, 2nd Edition Volume 463 || Chapter 9 Concentration of Proteins and Removal of Solutes. , (), 97–120. doi:10.1016/S0076-6879(09)63009-3 
  • Ó’Fágáin, C., Cummins, P. M., & O’Connor, B. F. (2017). Gel-Filtration Chromatography. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1485, 15–25. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-6412-3_2
  • https://www.slideshare.net/asabuwangwa/gel-permeation-chromatography-gpc
  • https://library.um.edu.mo/ebooks/b28050630.pdf
  • https://www.slideshare.net/shovameghbalika/gel-chromatography
  • https://kirschner.med.harvard.edu/files/protocols/GE_gelfiltration.pdf

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