Electrophoresis, Vol.39, No.8, 1040-1047, 2018
Arrayed isoelectric focusing using photopatterned multi-domain hydrogels
Isoelectric focusing (IEF) is a powerful separation method, useful for resolving subtle changes in the isoelectric point of unlabeled proteins. While microfluidic IEF has reduced the separation times from hours in traditional benchtop IEF to minutes, the enclosed devices hinder post-separation access to the sample for downstream analysis. The two-layer open IEF device presented here comprises a photopatterned hydrogel lid layer containing the chemistries required for IEF and a thin polyacrylamide bottom layer in which the analytes are separated. The open IEF device produces comparable minimum resolvable difference in isoelectric point and gradient stability to enclosed microfluidic devices while providing post-separation sample access by simple removal of the lid layer. Further, using simulations, we determine that the material properties and the length of the separation lanes are the primary factors that affect the electric field magnitude in the separation region. Finally, we demonstrate self-indexed photomasks for alignment-free fabrication of multi-domain hydrogels. We leverage this approach to generate arrayed pH gradients with a total of 80 concurrent separation lanes, which to our knowledge is the first demonstration of multiple IEF separations in series addressed by a single pair of electrodes.