General experimental aspects of the use of isoelectric buffers in capillary electrophoresis

Alessandra Bossi, Erna Olivieri, Laura Castelletti, Cecilia Gelfi, Mahmoud Hamdan, Pier Giorgio Righetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Four acidic, isoelectric buffers, for peptide and protein separations, have been recently described and adopted in capillary zone electrophoresis: cysteic acid [Cys-A, isoelectric point (pI) 1.85], iminodiacetic acid (IDA, pI 2.23), aspartic acid (Asp, pI 2.77) and glutamic acid (Glu, pI 3.22). These four buffers allow to explore an acidic portion of the titration curves of macroions, covering about 1.6 pH units (from pH 1.85 to ca. 3.45), thus permitting resolution of compounds having coincident titration curves at a given pH value. Given the rather acidic pI values of these buffers, their long-term stability has been investigated, by monitoring pH and conductivity changes upon increasing storage times. When dissolved in plain water, all four buffers appear to give constant pH and conductivity readings up to 15 days; after that, the conductivity keeps steadily increasing in a similar fashion. The same parameters, when the same buffers are dissolved in 6 M urea, appear to be stable for only one week, with the conductivity progressively augmenting after this period. A similar behaviour is exhibited by histidine (pI 7.70), a neutral, isoelectric buffer adopted for separation of DNA fragments. By mass spectrometry, Cys-A shows minute amounts (ca. 1%) of a degradation product after ageing for 3 weeks; in the same time period, Glu is extensively degraded (20%). No degradation species could be detected in IDA and Asp solutions. It is additionally shown that the acidic buffers are not quite stationary in the electric field, but can be transported at progressively higher rates (according to the pI value) from the cathodic to the anodic vessel. This is due to the fact that, at their respective pI values, a fraction of the amphotere has to be negatively charged in order to provide counterions to the excess of protons due to bulk water dissociation. Guidelines are given for the proper use and storage of such buffers. Copyright (C) 1999.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 20 1999


  • Amphoteric buffers
  • Buffer composition
  • Isoelectric buffers
  • Peptides
  • Proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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