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J Chromatogr A. 2008 Feb 15;1181(1-2):83-94. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2007.12.054. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

Protein separations with induced pH gradients using cation-exchange chromatographic columns containing weak acid groups.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4741, USA.


The behavior of chromatographic columns packed with resins containing both weak and strong cation-exchange groups is investigated in order to obtain protein separations by means of internally generated pH gradients in response to step changes in buffer composition. A local equilibrium model is developed to predict pH transitions using non-adsorbed buffers, i.e. containing neutral and negatively charged buffering species, based exclusively on the resin titration curve. In agreement with experimental results, the model predicts practical, fairly linear gradients between pH 5 and 7, which are formed using suitable mixtures of acetate and phosphate buffers. The separation of mixtures of ovalbumin, albumin, and transferrin is used as a model system, but, unlike most previous work, we consider preparative conditions. Near baseline resolution is obtained with protein loads as high as 10mg/mL and mobile phase velocities at high as 460 cm/h using porous, 70-microm diameter particles. The peaks obtained with this approach are much sharper than could be obtained isocratically or using externally generated, unretained gradients as a result of the peak compression caused by the axial pH gradient formed along the column. Moreover, separation is obtained at very low ionic strengths (2-3 mS/cm). The effects of flow velocity, mobile phase composition, time of injection, and protein load on retention and elution pH are investigated systematically demonstrating a range of ways in which the separation can be controlled and optimized.

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