Hydrodynamic size-based separation and characterization of protein aggregates from total cell lysates

Maya Tanase, Valerio Zolla, Cristina C. Clement, Francesco Borghi, Aleksandra M. Urbanska, Jose Antonio Rodriguez-Navarro, Barbara Roda, Andrea Zattoni, Pierluigi Reschiglian, Ana Maria Cuervo, Laura Santambrogio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Herein we describe a protocol that uses hollow-fiber flow field-flow fractionation (FFF) coupled with multiangle light scattering (MALS) for hydrodynamic size-based separation and characterization of complex protein aggregates. The fractionation method, which requires 1.5 h to run, was successfully modified from the analysis of protein aggregates, as found in simple protein mixtures, to complex aggregates, as found in total cell lysates. In contrast to other related methods (filter assay, analytical ultracentrifugation, gel electrophoresis and size-exclusion chromatography), hollow-fiber flow FFF coupled with MALS allows a flow-based fractionation of highly purified protein aggregates and simultaneous measurement of their molecular weight, r.m.s. radius and molecular conformation (e.g., round, rod-shaped, compact or relaxed). The polyethersulfone hollow fibers used, which have a 0.8-mm inner diameter, allow separation of as little as 20 μg of total cell lysates. In addition, the ability to run the samples in different denaturing and nondenaturing buffer allows defining true aggregates from artifacts, which can form during sample preparation. The protocol was set up using Paraquat-induced carbonylation, a model that induces protein aggregation in cultured cells. This technique will advance the biochemical, proteomic and biophysical characterization of molecular-weight aggregates associated with protein mutations, as found in many CNS degenerative diseases, or chronic oxidative stress, as found in aging, and chronic metabolic and inflammatory conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-148
Number of pages15
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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