Mason group’s research featured in Nature Communications

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Alumnus Dr Dimitri Bikos (PhD ’18) and Professor Thomas Mason have created a new technique that uses gel electrophoresis to collide bands of reacting species.

Their paper, entitled “Band-collision Gel Electrophoresis”, was published online in the prestigious journal Nature Communications on August 12, 2019. Bikos is the first-author and Mason is the senior and corresponding author.

Gel electrophoresis (GE) is routinely used to separate a variety of different macromolecules in an aqueous solution that has been loaded into a single common well in a gel immersed in a buffer solution. Differences in the electrophoretic mobilities, and therefore propagation velocities, of different macromolecular species in the nanoporous gel lead to their spatial separation, typically into discrete bands. Previously, GE has been extended to study binding interactions between different biomolecules through a technique known as the electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). EMSAs involve loading the biomolecular species that could potentially bind into the same common well before applying the electric field. However, EMSAs are inherently limited by this loading into a single common well, and so EMSAs can access only a small subset of reaction scenarios that would otherwise be possible without this limitation.

BCGE Featured Image

Using a simple implementation of band-collision gel electrophoresis (BCGE), space-time plots of collisions between bands of counter-propagating dye molecules (4 different sets of dyes, shown from left-to-right) reveal different types of interactions and complex formation. Space is along the vertical direction and time is along the horizontal direction. Please see the open-source article at Nature Communications for further information.

To overcome this limitation, Dr. Dimitri Bikos, while a graduate student at UCLA, and Professor Thomas Mason developed an approach that they call band-collision gel electrophoresis (BCGE). In BCGE, two or more wells are created in the same lane of a gel, and each well is loaded with a solution containing a different reactive species. By exploiting differences in the electrophoretic mobilities of these reactive species, they can effectively program collisions between discrete propagating bands of these reactive species, leading to complex spatio-temporal pattern formation, which they image optically. They have experimentally demonstrated BCGE for a wide range of reaction types, including complexation, ligand-exchange, acid-base, and redox. This exciting advance has just been published in Nature Communications.

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Performing his research under the direction Mason in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Bikos (pictured right) received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 2018. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Montana State University working with Professor Connie B. Chang in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

Mason is a professor of physical chemistry and of physics at UCLA and leads an interdisciplinary research group in pre- and self-assembled soft matter, nanoemulsions, and microrheology. For more information about research in Mason’s group, visit this website.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,