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
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico SuperSignal® West Pico
Incubated for 5 minutes No incubation
Substrate at room temperature Substrate at room temperature
Performance LOD – 2.5 µg LOD – 5 µg

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:

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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
Substrate SuperSignal® West Pico SuperSignal® West Pico
Substrate at room temperature Substrate cold
Sensitivity Standard Standard
Performance Signal – 1,740 Signal – 200

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:

10 Possible Causes of Weak Signals on Chemiluminescent Western Blot Images

Weak Signals on Chemiluminescent Western BlotsAre you seeing weaker than expected (hoped for. . .) signal on your chemiluminescent Western blot images with your digital imager? Not sure what could be causing this? Well, here is a list of 10 possible reasons why you might be seeing weak signals in chemiluminescent Western blot data:

  1. The chemiluminescent substrate does not have a fast enough rate of reaction.
  2. Not enough substrate was added to the blot.
  3. Membrane was placed on the detection system incorrectly.
  4. Blot was not detected or processed on the same day it was imaged.
  5. Blot was not kept uniformly wet during the entire image acquisition.
  6. Blot was exposed to film BEFORE imaging on a digital imager.
  7. Blot was imaged using incorrect sensitivity setting (learn about the easy-to-use Image Studio™ Software. Try FREE Image Studio Lite Western Blot Analysis Software to see just how easy it is!)
  8. Chemiluminescent substrate was too cold.
  9. Chemiluminescent substrate was not incubated for 5 minutes.
  10. Substrate was diluted.

Hum, that’s quite a list! For details on ways to eliminate or avoid these causes and get great results with your chemiluminescent Western blots, read Good Westerns Gone Bad: Maximizing Sensitivity on Chemiluminescent Western Blots.