Protein reverse staining: high-efficiency microanalysis of unmodified proteins detected on electrophoresis gels

Anal Biochem. 1995 Jan 1;224(1):203-11. doi: 10.1006/abio.1995.1031.


A methodology is presented for efficiently gaining structural information from electrophoresed proteins after on-gel detection by imidazole-sodium dodecyl sulfate-zinc reverse staining. As a consequence of reverse staining, (a) protein bands arise transparent against a deep white-stained background, limits of detection being in the femtomole range; (b) there is no loss of image when the gel is kept in distilled water (even during years); and (c) protein bands result immobilized, i.e., they do not diffuse upon gel storage. To recover reverse-stained proteins or fragments thereof from the gel, the immobilization of bands must first be abrogated by chelating the zinc ions from stain (protein mobilization). We had originally described mobilization at low pH by using citric acid. Here, we improve this procedure regarding the protein electrotransfer. We demonstrate that mobilization is efficiently done at neutral to alkaline pH by short-term (5 to 10 min) incubation of the gel in a buffer containing glycine or dithiothreitol prior to transfer. Moreover, mobilization was most simply performed by just adding the zinc chelating agent to the transfer buffer. Reverse staining and the new mobilization procedure made electrotransferring single protein bands from gel onto small-sized (13 x 5 mm2) PVDF membrane pieces in mini sandwich-like assemblies practical. Equipment is described for the protein electroblotting in such minisandwiches. Microsequence analysis of the electroblotted proteins showed initial yields in the range of those achieved when the transfer was done from unstained control gels. Protein bands kept in the reverse-stained gel for prolonged time periods (even for as long as 2 years) could be similarly analyzed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Isoelectric Focusing
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Proteins