The Experion™ automated electrophoresis system employs LabChip microfluidic technology to automate protein and nucleic acid electrophoresis. It integrates separation, detection, and data analysis within a single platform. Using much smaller sample and reagent quantities than standard analysis method, the Experion system accomplishes analysis in a single 30–40 minute, automated step. This section provides an overview of the technology behind the Experion system and describes the system and its capabilities.
Related Topics: Automated Electrophoresis and Analysis.
The Experion system is used for the following applications:
The Experion system. The system includes the following components: 1) automated electrophoresis station, 2) priming station, 3) vortex station used for nucleic acid analysis only, 4) system operation and data analysis tools (software), and 5) analysis kits, which include the (a) chips and (b) reagents for protein (Pro260 kit), standard sensitivity RNA (StdSens kit), high-sensitivity RNA (HighSens kit), and DNA (DNA 1K and 12K kits) analyses.
Electrophoresis Station The Experion automated electrophoresis station houses all the electrical, optical, and hardware components necessary to perform the separation, staining, destaining, detection, and imaging of samples in a single step. The electrophoresis station is equipped with an internal universal power supply that operates at 100–240 VAC, 50–60 Hz. It connects to a computer (PC) running the Experion software.
Experion electrophoresis station.
Priming Station The Experion priming station is used to prepare the microfluidic chips for sample analysis. The priming station applies pressure to the priming well of the chip and fills the network of microchannels with the gel-stain solution (a mixture of Experion gel and stain).
Experion priming station.
Vortex Station The Experion vortex station ensures complete mixing of RNA or DNA samples and loading buffers in the chip wells. The vortex adapter securely holds the chip during the 1 min vortex cycle. The vortex station is not used for protein analysis.
Experion vortex station.
Microfluidic Chips At the center of the Experion system is the microfluidic chip in which sample separation occurs. Each chip contains a series of plastic wells bonded over a small glass plate. The glass plate is etched with a network of microchannels that connects with the base of the plastic wells. The microchannels are primed, or filled with a mixture of gel matrix and stain, before the samples are applied to the wells. Once a prepared chip is placed in the electrophoresis station and the lid closed, 16 electrode pins contact the solutions in each well. The electrophoresis station directs the samples through the microchannels by controlling the voltages and currents that are applied. Different chips are used for each application.
Experion microfluidic chips.
Analysis Kits: Microfluidic Chips and Reagents Experion analysis kits contain the microfluidic chips and reagents required to perform protein, RNA, or DNA separation and analysis (see table below).
Experion Software Experion software includes the controls required to operate the electrophoresis station and the data analysis tools needed to assess the results. During a run, the software provides the ability to monitor run progress or review previous sample results. For more information about the use of Experion software, refer to the Experion analysis kit manuals in the Documents tab.
Two optional software kits assess system performance and aid in troubleshooting:
Experion Software. Experion software provides a user-friendly interface for protein, RNA, or DNA analysis. For total RNA analysis, the software automatically provides such elements as A, an electropherogram for visualizing RNA profile; B, a results table showing an RQI value with convenient color coding rankings along with a run summary; and C, a tree-view browser for organizing runs with D, virtual gel.
Automated electrophoresis systems use microfluidic chip based technology to integrate electrophoretic separation, fluorescence detection, and data analysis of various biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids within a single platform. The Experion analysis chip utilizes LabChip technology developed by Caliper Life Sciences, Inc. The microfluidic chip is a powerful, miniaturized device — much like a tiny laboratory — that combines the functionality of a number of larger benchtop analytical instruments. Within each chip, a series of microchannels connects the sample wells to a separation channel and buffer wells. A set of electrodes in the electrophoresis station applies a voltage across the microchannels, causing charged molecules in the samples to migrate into and through the separation channel. Samples are run sequentially, with a sufficient lag between them to prevent cross-contamination. For separation, the microchannels are filled with a proprietary gel-stain solution (GS) that acts as a sieving matrix.
Finally, the fragments with the fluorescent dye bound (directly bound to RNA or DNA or bound to LDS micelles coating the proteins) are detected as they pass a laser and photodiode detector (laser-induced fluorescence). Data are automatically collected, saved, and presented in several formats (electropherogram — fluorescence vs. time trace, virtual gel, and data tables) by the Experion software.
Microfluidic technology enables much lower consumption of sample and reagent quantities and speeds up the run and analysis time compared to standard analysis methods. Microfluidic automated electrophoresis systems such as the Experion system reduce hands-on time and enable completion of protein or nucleic acid electrophoresis and analysis of up to 12 samples in a single 30–40 min assay (analysis of a single sample is accomplished in as little as 90 sec). The Experion system can be used in applications such as purity and yield assessment in protein purification and protocol optimization workflows, RNA integrity assessments before RT-qPCR or next generation sequencing, or separation and detection of DNA fragments from PCR reactions or RFLP analysis. Although samples cannot be recovered from the separations, sample consumption is minimal, hence enabling preservation of more of the original sample for other applications.
Protein, RNA, or DNA analysis with the Experion system is achieved with various analysis kits, which supply the microfluidic chips, reagents, and instructions required to separate and analyze 10–260 kD proteins under denaturing conditions, total or mRNA, and double stranded DNA.
Data are displayed by the Experion software and show visual plots such as electropherograms and virtual gels, and linear regression curves, information such as size, concentration, % contribution of a particular separated species against the total sample, RNA quality number. The types of key data and abilities are available include the following:
Data or function
Electropherogram (plot of fluorescence vs. time)
Virtual gel (densitometric gel like image)
Overlaying electropherograms of samples within a run or across different runs
Manual integration of peaks*
Data summary table
ng/µl or pg/µl range
%Total sample (% contribution of each peak detected in sample)
RQI (RNA quality indicator) for objective RNA integrity assessment
Calibration curve and use of user chosen internal standard
* Available for Ladder lane only for RNA assays **Pro260 assay sensitivity is comparable to colloidal Coomassie (Brilliant) Blue staining of SDS-PAGE gels
Sample analysis involves the following steps:
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