Multiplex Westerns – Insider tips

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Detecting one protein, two proteins, three proteins? How about FOUR proteins on the same Western Blot? Save money on each experiment by using multiplex Western blots.

Here at Azure Biosystems we’re great believers in the power of fluorescent multiplexing in Western blots, which has driven a lot of the development of our line of Azure imagers. But we recognize that taking the step from a standard HRP/chemiluminescent-based approach can be daunting. Keep reading for 6 tips to make the switch as easy as possible.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the exact protocols in more detail in some of our application notes covering phosphorylation/total protein detection, and single step normalization.

1. Increase your concentrations

The concentration of both the primary and secondary antibody required may be increased compared to chemiluminescent Westerns depending which imager you’re using. In more modern or laser based imagers, this effect may be less marked.

2. Test individually first

Going hand in hand with the above point, it always makes sense to test your antibodies individually first. That way you can determine optimal concentrations, factors contributing to background or lack of specificity in a simpler environment, rather than trying to unpick 3 different primary and secondary antibodies at once.

3. Use adsorbed secondary antibodies

Although it sounds simple, many people don’t consider that they are now adding multiple antibodies from multiple species onto a single blot. If you work with multiple fluorescence in other fields you’ll already be aware of the importance of cross-adsorbing secondary antibodies to reduce inter-species cross reactivity. But many people don’t consider this for Westerns, it’s worth checking out your antibodies to ensure they meet the grade.

4. Expand the spectrum

Three-color Westerns are exciting, but what about five colors? With NIR capability the number of spectrally distinct peaks that can be isolated can be increased greatly. Obviously, this may require a bit of work up to get the antibodies optimized, but imagine the time and cost savings generated by performing one Western for five proteins.

5. Check your membrane

Some membranes will auto-fluoresce when exposed to UV light generating a high background signal, although more and more fluorescent safe membranes are being developed. We would also recommend switching to using PVDF membranes from nitrocellulose due to its increased sensitivity, as we discussed previously.

Buy: PVDF membanes

6. Choose the right channel for your protein

Unfortunately all detection channels were not created equally. For standard fluorescence use blue to detect your highest abundance protein, green the middle and red for your lowest abundance protein. If introducing NIR the excellent sensitivity and low background achieved with these fluorophores also makes them ideal for low abundance proteins.

Have more questions or want to learn more about multiplexing and how it can improve the way you research? Fill out the form on the left- we’ll be in touch.

Ready to learn more about how easy multiplexing can be?

Set up a free virtual demo with the Azure Imaging Systems or Azure Sapphire Biomolecular Imager! We'd love to meet with you and your lab.

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