This work reports on protein transport phenomena discovered in partitioning experiments with a novel setup for continuous-flow two-phase electrophoresis consisting of a microchannel in which a phase boundary is formed in flow direction. Proteins can be partitioned exploiting their affinity to different aqueous phases in two-phase systems. This separation process may be enhanced or extended by applying an electric field perpendicular to the phase boundary. In this context, microsystems offer new possibilities, as interfacial forces usually dominate over volume forces, thus allowing a superior control of the formation and arrangement of liquid/liquid phase boundaries. The two immiscible phases which are injected separately into the microchannel are taken from a polyethylene glycol (PEG)-dextran system. The side walls of the channel are partially made of gel material which serves as an ion conductor and decouples the channel from the electrodes, thus preventing bubble generation inside the separation channel. The experiments show that the electrophoretic transport of proteins between the laminated liquid phases is characterized by a strong asymmetry. When bovine serum albumin (BSA) is introduced into the PEG-rich phase, it can easily be transferred into the dextran-rich phase via an applied electric field of low strength or just by diffusion. In the reverse case, up to a certain field strength the transfer to the opposing phase is strongly inhibited. Only if the field strength is further increased will the BSA molecules leave the dextran-rich phase almost completely.
|Publication status||Published - 2007|