Ion-exchange chromatography with multi-angle light scattering (IEX-MALS) is a powerful method for protein separation and characterization. The combination of the high-specificity separation technique IEX with the accurate molar mass analysis achieved by MALS allows the characterization of heterogeneous protein samples, including mixtures of oligomeric forms or protein populations, even with very similar molar masses. Therefore, IEX-MALS provides an additional level of protein characterization and is complementary to the standard size-exclusion chromatography with multi-angle light scattering (SEC-MALS) technique.
Here we describe a protocol for a basic IEX-MALS experiment and demonstrate this method on bovine serum albumin (BSA). IEX separates BSA to its oligomeric forms allowing a molar mass analysis by MALS of each individual form. Optimization of an IEX-MALS experiment is also presented and demonstrated on BSA, achieving excellent separation between BSA monomers and larger oligomers. IEX-MALS is a valuable technique for protein quality assessment since it provides both fine separation and molar mass determination of multiple protein species that exist in a sample.