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Modification of gel architecture and TBE/TAE buffer composition to minimize heating during agarose gel electrophoresis

Elsevier Inc.
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.ab.2014.03.003
  • Gel Electrophoresis
  • Agarose
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Current
  • Resolution
  • Chemistry


Abstract Agarose gel electrophoresis of DNA and RNA is routinely performed using buffers containing either Tris, acetate, and EDTA (TAE) or Tris, borate, and EDTA (TBE). Gels are run at a low, constant voltage (∼10V/cm) to minimize current and asymmetric heating effects, which can induce band artifacts and poor resolution. In this study, alterations of gel structure and conductive media composition were analyzed to identify factors causing higher electrical currents during horizontal slab gel electrophoresis. Current was reduced when thinner gels and smaller chamber buffer volumes were used, but was not influenced by agarose concentration or the presence of ethidium bromide. Current was strongly dependent on the amount and type of EDTA used and on the concentrations of the major acid–base components of each buffer. Interestingly, resolution and the mobilities of circular versus linear plasmid DNAs were also affected by the chemical form and amount of EDTA. With appropriate modifications to gel structure and buffer constituents, electrophoresis could be performed at high voltages (20–25V/cm), reducing run times by up to 3-fold. The most striking improvements were observed with small DNAs and RNAs (10–100bp): high voltages and short run times produced sharper bands and higher resolution.

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