Rethinking the Traditional Western Blot

Traditional Western blotting is a labor-intensive process that includes gel electrophoresis, protein transfer to a blotting membrane, incubation with primary and secondary antibodies, and chemiluminescent or fluorescent detection of target proteins. (View a typical Western blotting workflow.) Day-to-day reproducibility is poor, because small variations in lysate preparation, gel loading, electrophoresis, transfer, and detection are unavoidable sources of technical variability.

Snapshot of In-Cell Western Assay MethodThe In-Cell Western™ (ICW) Assay, a quantitative immunofluorescent method, is an alternative to traditional Western blots that increases both reproducibility and sample throughput. (View a typical ICW workflow.)

We recently hosted a webinar called “Rethinking the Traditional Western Blot”, during which John Lyssand, PhD, from LI-COR Biosciences, discussed the In-Cell Western Assay and an example of its use in neuroscience research, in this case, Alzheimer’s Disease. The In-Cell Western Assay enables screening and analysis of many more samples in each experiment, eliminates error-prone protocol steps, and delivers higher reproducibility for biological and technical replicates.

ICW Use: Tau Protein Accumulation and InhibitionThe data presented demonstrated how ICW assays were used in Alzheimer’s Disease research to screen HSP90 inhibitors for their effectiveness in reducing tau activity levels. Dr Lyssand discussed how and why the In-Cell Western Assay is superior to traditional methods for screening of cell samples.

If you didn’t have a chance to join us in September for “Rethinking the Traditional Western blot”, you can view this webinar online and on-demand. Check out the information on In-Cell Western assays on our website. You can also read Professor Dickey’s white paper as cited above that outlines how he and his group used higher throughput method to study Alzheimer’s Disease.

New Cell Stain Increases Ease of Use for In-Cell Western™ Normalization

CellTag 700 Stain ICW Kits for Quantitative Cell Signaling AnalysisHave you ever wanted to try an in-cell ELISA but you just weren’t sure how to get started? With the new LI-COR® CellTag™ 700 Stain, a near-infrared fluorescent, non-specific cell stain that provides accurate normalization to cell number, you have a easier — and more affordable — way to try this powerful application. CellTag 700 Stain accumulates in both the nucleus and cytoplasm of permeabilized cells, and provides linear fluorescent signal across a wide range of cell types and cell numbers (see Figure 1 below). CellTag 700 Stain is applied to the cells during incubation with IRDye® 800CW secondary antibody, and enables accurate measurement of target protein levels with much higher throughput than Western blotting.

CellTag 700 Stain - Linear Relationship between Fluorescence and Cell Number.

Figure 1. Linear Relationship between Fluorescence and Cell Number. Two-fold serial dilutions of A431 and NIH/3T3 cells were plated in 96-well plate, then fixed, permeabilized, stained with CellTag 700 Stain, and detected with Odyssey Classic (Resolution: 169um; Quality: medium; Focus offset: 4.0mm; Intensity: 5). The Trim Signals were used to generate the graphs.

CellTag 700 Stain ICW Kits offer a convenient way to try cell-based In-Cell Western Assays. Each kit includes blocking buffer, IRDye® 800CW secondary antibody for detection of a specific protein target in the 800 nm channel, and CellTag 700 Stain to normalize well-to-well variations in cell number. This cost-effective normalization method makes quantification of the target protein more precise.
In-Cell Western Normalization with CellTag 700 Stain in EGF-stimulated A431 Cells.Figure 2. In-Cell Western Assay with CellTag 700 Stain in EGF-stimulated A431 Cells. (Go to the CellTag 700 Stain Overview page for more details on this data).

Try one of our new In-Cell Western Assay Kits with CellTag 700 Stain today and find out just how easy it is to perform fast, cost-effective cell-based Western assays.

More Essential Success Tips for Performing In-Cell ELISAs Using Non-Adherent Cells

Round Bottom Plates for In-Cell Western Assays

I mentioned in my post on 23-May, that the next few entries would be on more hints and tips of how to use non-adherent cells for In-Cell Western Assays – so here goes!

During my washing steps, cells are coming off the plates.

  1. Are you using the recommended round bottom 96-well plate (BD Biosciences, P/N 353077)?
    1. If no, cells will more easily detach from the flat bottom plates than the round bottom
      plates. The multi-channel pipettors will generate enough pressure when expelling liquid from the pipet to cause cell detachment when using flat bottom plates. Cells will detach even when pipetting down the sides of the wells.
    2. If yes, make sure you pipet down the sides of the wells and not directly onto the cells. If this doesn’t help, you may need to change your multi-channel pipettor because different brands of pipettors have different amount of pressure required to expel the liquid from the pipet. The recommended multi-channel pipettor is the 12-channel Finnpipette
      (Thermo Electron Corp, P/N 4610050).
  2. Are you shaking or rotating the plates at a moderate to high speed?
    1. If yes, gentler shaking/rotating is needed to prevent cells from detaching. Cells will detach. Set shaking or rotating speed to very low speed.
    2. If no, are you dumping the solutions straight from the plates? Dumping causes cells to
      detach. Either aspirate very slowly or manually pipet using the sides of the wells.

Why can’t I use the flat bottom 96-well plates?

  • LI-COR® Biosciences recommends using the round bottom 96-well plates for the reasons mentioned above.

When I scan an empty round bottom 96-well plate, I get lots of background noise.

  • The round bottom plate shows some background autofluorescence. The background fluorescence is relatively small compared to signal (about 200-fold difference depending on the intensity of the signal) and can be subtracted from the signal. It is necessary to include background wells containing cells and only the secondary antibodies in order to
    completely subtract away the background noise originating from the plate as well as from the non-specific binding of the secondary antibodies.

Here is a technical note on more FAQs on using non-adherent cells for In-Cell Western Assays. Or you can just stay tuned to my next blog post!

To your Research Success!