A microfluidic device for pH gradient chromatofocusing is presented, which performs creation of a micro-column, pH gradient generation, and fraction collection in a single device. Using a sieve micro-valve, anion exchange particles were packed into a microchannel in order to realize a solid-phase absorption column. To fractionate proteins according to their isoelectric points, elution buffer solutions with a stepwise pH gradient were prepared in 16 parallel mixing reactors and flowed through the micro-column, wherein a protein mixture was previously loaded. The volume of the column is only 20 nL, hence it allows extremely low sample consumption and fast analysis compared with a conventional system. We demonstrated separation of two proteins, albumin–fluorescein isothiocyanate conjugate (FITC-BSA) and R-Phycoerythrin (R-PE), by using a microcolumn of commercial charged polymeric particles (Source 15Q). The microfluidic device can be used as a rapid diagnostic tool to analyse crude mixtures of proteins or nucleic acids and determine adsorption/desorption characteristics of various biochemical products, which can be helpful for scientific fundamental understanding as well as instrumental in various industrial applications, especially in early stage screening and process development.
- pH gradient chromatofocusing
- Protein separation