Important considerations for protein analyses using antibody based techniques: down-sizing Western blotting up-sizes outcomes Academic Article uri icon


  • Western blotting has been used for protein analyses in a wide range of tissue samples for >30 years. Fundamental to Western blotting success are a number of important considerations, which unfortunately are often overlooked or not appreciated. Firstly, lowly expressed proteins may often be better detected by dramatically reducing the amount of sample loaded. Single cell (fibre) Western blotting demonstrates the ability to detect proteins in small sample sizes, 5-10 μg total mass (1-3 μg total protein). That is an order of magnitude less than often used. Using heterogeneous skeletal muscle as the tissue of representation, the need to undertake Western blotting in sample sizes equivalent to single fibre segments is demonstrated. Secondly, incorrect results can be obtained if samples are fractionated and a proportion of the protein of interest inadvertently discarded during sample preparation. Thirdly, quantitative analyses demand that a calibration curve be used. This is regardless of using a loading control, which must be proven to not change with the intervention and also be appropriately calibrated. Fourthly, antibody specificity must be proven using whole tissue analyses, and for immunofluorescence analyses it is vital that only a single protein is detected. If appropriately undertaken, Western blotting is reliable, quantitative, both in relative and absolute terms, and extremely valuable.

publication date

  • December 1, 2013