Rapid two-dimensional characterisation of proteins in solution
Abstract: Microfluidic platforms provide an excellent basis for working with heterogeneous samples and separating biomolecular components at high throughput, with high recovery rates and by using only very small sample volumes. To date, several micron scale platforms with preparative capabilities have been demonstrated. Here we describe and demonstrate a microfluidic device that brings preparative and analytical operations together onto a single chip and thereby allows the acquisition of multidimensional information. We achieve this objective by using a free-flow electrophoretic separation approach that directs fractions of sample into an on-chip analysis unit, where the fractions are characterised through a microfluidic diffusional sizing process. This combined approach therefore allows simultaneously quantifying the sizes and the charges of components in heterogenous mixtures. We illustrate the power of the platform by describing the size distribution of a mixture comprising components which are close in size and cannot be identified as individual components using state-of-the-art solution sizing techniques on their own. Furthermore, we show that the platform can be used for two-dimensional fingerprinting of heterogeneous protein mixtures within tens of seconds, opening up a possibility to obtain multiparameter data on biomolecular systems on a minute timescale.