Article Category: Western Blotting

Studying Colon Cancer? Use the C-DiGit® Scanner for Western Blots.

Cortactin (CTTN) is a substrate of Src tyrosine kinase involved in actin dynamics, and is overexpressed in several cancers. Phosphorylated cortactin (pTyr421) is required for cancer cell motility and invasion. This study demonstrates elevated expression of pTyr421-CTTN in primary colorectal tumors, with no change in mRNA levels. Curcumin (a natural compound derived from the spice turmeric) reduced association of CTTN with plasma membrane fractions in surface biotinylation, mass spectrometry, and Western blot experiments. Curcumin also decreased pTyr421-CTTN levels in certain cell lines.

Western blot analysis of cortactin, actin and GAPDH proteins

Figure 1. Western blot analysis of cortactin, actin and GAPDH proteins from DMSO and curcumin treated cell fractions of HCT116 cells. Total cell lysates were used to represent total protein input. Cytosolic and cytoskeletal proteins were extracted using Cell Fractionation kit (Cell Signaling, MA) and quantification of the blots are summarized in graphs. The images were scanned using C-Digit and quantified using Image Studio Digits (LI-COR Biosciences, NE). The data are expressed as a ratio to total protein (mean ± SD). * p<0.05 DMSO vs. curcumin; Student’s T-test. All images are representative of three independent experiments.

Quantitative chemiluminescent Westerns (using the LI-COR® C-DiGit Blot Scanner and SuperSignal® West Pico substrate) showed that curcumin treatment reduced CTTN levels in cytoskeletal fractions, and increased cytoplasmic localization. In Western blotting and immunofluorescent microscopy studies, curcumin induced dephosphorylation of cortactin by activation of the PTPN1 protein tyrosine phosphatase. Western blotting demonstrated that biotinylated curcumin directly binds to PTPN1, and that curcumin blocks the interaction between CTTN and p120 catenin. Curcumin inhibits cell migration in colon cancer cells overexpressing CTTN, and it holds promise as a colon cancer therapeutic.

Reference:

pTyr421 cortactin is overexpressed in colon cancer and is dephosphorylated by curcumin: involvement of non-receptor type 1 protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTPN1)
VM Radhakrishnan, P Kojs, G Young, R Ramalingam, B Jagadish, EA Mash, JD Martinez, FK Ghishan, PR Kiela
University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, Arizona; Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, AZ, USA
PLoS ONE 9(1): e85796 (2014). 10.1371/journal.pone.0085796

Avoid Milk Blocking Buffer – Use NEW! Odyssey® Blocking Buffer (TBS)

Odyssey Blocking Buffer (TBS)

In previous posts, we’ve talked about Western blot blocking buffers and how important it is to optimize your blocking conditions to get the best results. As many of Western blot users do, you may just routinely use homemade TBS-milk blocking buffer. It’s inexpensive, and it does the job. . . well, most of the time. . .

What you may not know is using milk blocking buffer can cause issues with certain targets. This may give you the wrong information about the presence or the amount of your target. One good way to determine which blocking buffer system to use is to check to see what the primary antibody vendor recommends. Most recommend TBS-based buffer systems. If the primary antibody requires a TBS-based buffer system, we recommend new Odyssey™ Blocking Buffer (TBS).

When should you avoid milk blocking buffer?

  • When using anti-goat secondary antibodies.
    • Reason: Milk contains bovine IgG. Anti-goat secondary antibodies may recognize bovine IgG, resulting in high background.
  • When detecting phosphorylated proteins.
    • Reason: Milk contains phosphorylated proteins, which may result in low to no signal and high background.
  • When using streptavidin-biotin detection systems.
    • Reason: Milk contains endogenous levels of biotin. Streptavidin will detect this, resulting in high background.

OBB TBS and milkHere are the results of an experiment evaluating the use of milk and Odyssey Blocking Buffer (TBS). As you can see, milk masked the detection of this protein and is not a good blocking buffer choice.

Figure 1. Effect of various blocking agents on detection of pAkt and total Akt in Jurkat lysate after stimulation by calyculin A. Total and phosphorylated Akt were detected in calyculin A-stimulated (+) and non-stimulated (-) Jurkat lysate at 10 µg; 5 µg; and 2.5 µg/well. Blots were probed with pAkt Rabbit mAb (Santa Cruz P/N sc‑135650) and Akt mAb (CST P/N 2967) and detected with IRDye® 800CW Goat anti-Rabbit IgG (LI‑COR P/N 926-32211) and IRDye 680RD Goat anti-Mouse IgG (LI‑COR P/N 926‑68070); scanned on Odyssey® CLx (auto scan 700 & 800). pAkt (green) is only detected with Odyssey Blocking Buffer (TBS).

So be sure to optimize your Western blot blocking conditions! The time you spend finding the best blocker will be worth it – and save you from making the wrong conclusions about your experimental data in the future.

Possible Cause 10 for Weak Chemiluminescent Western Blot Signals: Diluting Substrates

WesternSure Chemiluminescent Western Blot ReagentsOkay, I know, research budget money is tight and you want to make your reagents stretch as far as possible, but it really not a good idea to dilute your chemiluminescent Western blotting substrate.

Why? It’s because the rate of reaction is determined by the ratio of enzyme to substrate. Diluting substrates will dramatically impact the overall generation of light. Then, you will have to repeat the experiment, and you end up using more substrate anyway!

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Western Blot - Substrate Not Diluted Unsatisfactory Chemiluminescent Western Blot - Substrate Diluted
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Dura1 SuperSignal® West Dura1
Substrate NOT diluted. Substrate diluted 1:1 (in water)
Performance LOD – 1.25 µg LOD – 2.5 µg

1Comparable to WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate

So don’t skimp – use the substrate full strength the first time to ensure that you are seeing all of your protein bands. Or you might just have to repeat the experiment (and that will just cost you more time and money. . .)!

Here are the other nine possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

Don’t Rush Substrate Incubation Time for Chemiluminescent Western Blots

Substrate Incubation Time is Important!Five minutes can seem like a long time, especially when you are waiting to image your chemiluminescent Western blot. But it is really important that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for incubation time. Typically, this is five (5) minutes for optimal photon emission – for both film and digital imaging.

So, set the timer for 5 minutes, grab your iPhone® or iPod® – or the crossword, and relax until the buzzer goes off.

To test this, we imaged a chemiluminescent Western blot immediately after adding the chemiluminescent substrate and then imaged a blot where we waited 5 minutes – answered a few emails, looked at the news, and downloaded a new app – and THEN imaged the Western blot. As you can see, incubating allowed us to see more bands and gave much better Western blotting results.

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot - 5 Min Substrate Incubation Unsatisfactory Blot - No Incubation
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico1 SuperSignal® West Pico1
Incubated for 5 minutes No incubation
Substrate at room temperature Substrate at room temperature
Performance LOD – 2.5 µg LOD – 5 µg

1Comparable to WesternSure™ ULTRA Chemiluminescent Substrate

So slow down, take a breath, and wait for your chemiluminescent Western blot substrate to incubate on your Western blot before imaging.

Here are some other blog posts on possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

iPhone and iPod are all registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

Chemiluminescent Western Blot Substrate Temperature Affects Signal Strength on Western Blots

The temperature at which a chemiluminescent Western blot substrate is used can affect the strength of the signal that is captured from Western blot images. Really?? Absolutely! This is because enzyme activity is greatly reduced when it is cold. The substrate needs to be equilibrated to room temperature for digital imaging. This is true with film as well, but there may be a period of time after adding substrate and exposing to film during which the substrate has had a chance to equilibrate to room temperature.

In the table below, we show data from an experiment in which we tested the affect of temperature on Western blotting signal. For one blot, SuperSignal® West Pico chemiluminescent substrate was used right out of the refrigerator – cold, 4 °C. For the other blot, the chemiluminescent Western blot substrate was allowed to come to room temperature before digital imaging. As you can see the signal difference is quite large.

Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot when Substrate is at Room Temperature Unsatisfactory Blot when Substrate is Cold
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico1 SuperSignal® West Pico1
Substrate at room temperature Substrate cold
Sensitivity Standard Standard
Performance Signal – 1,740 Signal – 200

1Comparable to WesternSure™ ULTRA Chemiluminescent Substrate

So make sure your substrate is at room temperature before using, especially when you are imaging with a digital imager!

Here are some other blog posts on possible causes of weak chemiluminescent Western blot signals:

Annotate Visible Protein Ladders on Chemiluminescent Westerns with the WesternSure™ Pen

Demonstrating the WesternSure PenIf you doing chemiluminescent Western blots, and are imaging either with film or with a digital imager, the WesternSure™ Pen can be a very useful addition to your experimental process. This newest member of the LI-COR WesternSure chemiluminescent reagent line can be used to annotate visible protein ladders prior to chemiluminescent Western blot detection.

The pen is optimized for detection using the C-DiGit® Blot Scanner or the Odyssey® Fc Imaging System, and is suitable for use with film or other imaging systems. The WesternSure Pen is a unique marker that delivers an ink which emits light when incubated with commonly-used chemiluminescent substrates, including WesternSure PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate. The ink is faintly visible for easy identification of marked membranes.

Here are a few tips to get the best performance from your WesternSure Pen:

  • Lightly touching the pen to the membrane should be enough to transfer ink to the membrane.
  • Do not push down on the nib so hard that it creates an uneven surface on the membrane.
  • Membranes may be annotated when damp after transfer, or when dry.
  • Annotated membranes may be stored dry at ambient temperature or 4 ºC for up to 1 week before starting the Western blot detection process.
  • If ink is not flowing smoothly onto a damp membrane, trace over the band until it is annotated to the desired effect.


Data using the WesternSure PenFigure 1. Chemiluminescent detection of visible protein standards. The WesternSure Pen (LI‑COR P/N 926‑91000) was used to mark the blue protein standards (panel A) for chemiluminescent Western blot detection. The blot was exposed to WesternSure PREMIUM chemiluminescent substrate and imaged on Odyssey Fc Imaging System (panel B).

If you would like some tips on how to troubleshoot chemiluminescent Western blots, read Good Westerns Gone Bad – Maximizing Sensitivity on Chemiluminescent Western Blots.

In the US, to order the WesternSure Pen online. For order inquiries outside the US, please contact your local sales office.

If Comparing Film and Digital Imagers, Expose Blot on Digital Imager First.

If you are trying to compare how the same chemiluminescent Western blot looks when imaged on a digital imager (like the C-DiGit® Blot Scanner) with how it will look when imaged on film, it’s important to know that you should expose the blot to film BEFORE imaging on a digital imager.

Why does this matter? Digital imaging requires capturing the most photons being generated, which is typically immediately after a 5-minute chemiluminescent substrate incubation. Time may be more of an issue with some substrates. For more information on how film and digial imaging compare, read Western Blot Analysis: Comparison of film and the C-DiGit Blot Scanner.

In Table 1 below, performance differences of a Western blot detected with SuperSignal® West Pico2 when the same blot is imaged over time. Blot was incubated 5 min in substrate before imaging on the C-DiGit Blot Scanner. Images are normalized to the LUT of the optimal blot.

Table 1 Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot with SuperSignal West Pico Unsatisfactory Blot with West Pico Unsatisfactory Blot with West Femto
Conditions: Immediately after incubation with SuperSignal West Pico 26 min after incubation 51 min after incubation
Imaging Time Immediately after incubation with SuperSignal® West Pico 26 min after incubation 51 min after incubation
Scan Setting High High High
Performance LOD – 625 ng, Signal – 338 LOD – 625 ng, Signal – 114 LOD – 625 ng, Signal – 32.2

In Table 2, Performance differences of a Western Blot detected with SuperSignal West Dura1 when the same blot is imaged over time. Blot was incubated 5 min in substrate before imaging on the C-DiGit Blot Scanner. Images are normalized to the LUT of the optimal blot.

Table 2 Optimal Blot Satisfactory Blot Satisfactory Blot
Images Optimal with West Dura Satisfactory with West Dura Satisfactory with West Dura
Conditions:
Imaging Time Immediately after incubation with SuperSignal West Dura 24 min after incubation 48 min after incubation
Scan Setting High High High
Performance LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 12,300 LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 10,400 LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 9,090

In Table 3, Performance differences of a Western Blot detected with SuperSignal West Femto when the same blot is imaged over time. Blot was incubated 5 min in substrate before imaging on the C-DiGit Blot Scanner. Images are linked to the LUT of the optimal blot.

Table 3 Optimal Blot Satisfactory Blot Satisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Blot with West Femto Satisfactory Blot with West Femto Satisfactory Blot with West Femto
Conditions:
Imaging Time Immediately after incubation with SuperSignal West Femto 24 min after incubation 48 min after incubation
Scan Setting High High High
Performance LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 11,500 LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 8,120 LOD – 156 ng, Signal – 6,860

1Comparable to WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate
2Comparable to WesternSure ULTRA Chemiluminescent Substrate

Related posts:

Good Western Blot Image Signal Acquisition Relies on Uniformly Wet Western Blots

Have you discovered the cause of the weak signals from your chemiluminescent Western blot yet? Well, let’s keep going. Here is another possible cause – the uniform wetness of the blot. It’s important to keep your Western blot membrane uniformly wet during the entire Western blot image acquisition.

Why does this matter? Well, if you don’t add enough substrate, the membrane will not stay wet, and there will be no enzymatic activity. And, that means no signal to detect.

Precaution/Solution:

  • Use more substrate prior to imaging
  • Do not completely blot off all of the substrate before imaging

For C-DiGit® Blot Scanner:

  • Wrap the blot in plastic wrap or cover with a plastic sheet protector
  • Incubate blot with substrate directly on scanner bed

Below is a table showing results of an experiment in which blots of varying degrees of wetness were imaged. You can clearly see that the wet blot and the damp blot give the best results. For both, the blots were protected from drying out by using a 1-ply sheet protector that was placed on top of the blot.

Optimal Blot Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Chemiluminescent Wet Blot Optimal Chemiluminescent Damp Blot Unsatisfactory Chemiluminescent Dry Blot
Conditions: Wet blot Damp blot Dry blot
Imaging Method Imaged in 3.0 mL of SuperSignal® West Dura1 substrate placed on the scan bed of the C-DiGit Blot Scanner with 1-ply sheet protector on top. Excess SuperSignal® West Dura1 substrate removed, then imaged on the scan bed of the C-DiGit Blot Scanner with 1-ply sheet protector on top. Blot dried before imaging.
Performance LOD – 640 ng LOD – 640 ng LOD – None detected

1SuperSignal West Dura results are comparable to those obtained with WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate.

We still have 5 more possible causes of weak signals in chemiluminescent Western blots to review, so stay tuned to future blog posts. And if you would like to try some FREE Western Blot Analysis Software, download Image Studio Lite today!

Watch this short video to see how to correctly place a Western blot on the C-DiGit Blot Scanner surface.

Related posts:

Troubleshooting Chemiluminescent Western Blots: Possible Cause 4 for Weak Signals – Blot Processing

Sometimes life in the lab gets crazy, right? You are finishing a Western blot and you realize that you are supposed to be at an important lecture across campus in 10 min!! Or, your spouse calls to say that one of the kids needs to be picked up as soon as possible. Yikes! The challenge is that blots should be processed and detected on the same day. And, the secondary antibody should be incubated the day of imaging and fresh substrate added just before imaging. Is it that important to your results? Yes, it is and just to prove it, we did a few experiments.

In Table 1, we studied performance differences when the same blot is imaged immediately after processing vs. stored overnight dry and then imaged. In Table 2, we looked at performance differences when the same blot is imaged immediately after processing vs. stored overnight wet and then imaged. Blots in both tables were all imaged on the C-DiGit® Blot Scanner. (And, all images are normalized to the Lookup Tables (LUT) of the respective optimal blot.)

For both experiments, you can see that saving the blot to image the next day is not a very good choice. This is because the secondary antibody and/or the chemiluminescent Western blot substrate is not stable enough for acceptable photon emission when digitally images after the day it is applied.

Table 1 Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Chemiluminescent Western Blot Unsatisfactory Chemiluminescent Western Blot Unsatisfactory Chemiluminescent Western Blot
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Dura1 SuperSignal West Dura1 SuperSignal West Dura1
Processing Time Same Day Next Day Next Day
Detection Process HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added immediately before imaging. HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added day before imaging. HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added day before imaging, then re-incubated with HRP secondary and substrate added immediately before imaging.
Storage Conditions Blot stored overnight dry, at room temperature Blot stored overnight dry, at room temperature
Performance LOD – 640 ng LOD – None detected LOD – 1.25 μg
Table 2 Optimal Blot Unsatisfactory Blot Unsatisfactory Blot
Images Optimal Chemiluminescent Western Blot Unsatisfactory Optimal Chemiluminescent Western Blot Unsatisfactory Optimal Chemiluminescent Western Blot
Conditions:
Substrate SuperSignal® West Dura1 SuperSignal West Dura1 SuperSignal West Dura1
Process Time Same day Next day Next day
Detection Process HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added immediately before imaging. HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added day before imaging. HRP secondary incubated, washed, and substrate added day before imaging, then re-incubated with HRP secondary and substrate added immediately before imaging.
Storage Conditions Blot stored overnight wet in PBS, at room temperature Blot stored overnight wet in PBS, at room temperature
Performance LOD – 640 ng LOD – None detected LOD – 1.25 μg

1SuperSignal West Dura results are comparable to those obtained with WesternSure™ PREMIUM Chemiluminescent Substrate.

For more hints and tips, stay tuned to future blog posts. And if you would like to try some FREE Western Blot Analysis Software, download Image Studio Lite today!

Related posts:

Give the Gift of Quantitative Western Blots and Be the Hero in Your Lab this Holiday!

Do you want to be the hero in your lab this holiday season? Watch this video and find out how! (Check out the bloopers at the end of the video!)

Give the gift of quantitative Western blots and your lab will love you for it!

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Happy Holidays from LI-COR! May all your research wishes come true!