What is disc centrifugation?


What is Disc Centrifugation?

Disc centrifugation is a widely used technique in various scientific fields for separating particles or molecules based on their size, density, and shape. It involves the use of a centrifuge, a powerful device that applies centrifugal force to accelerate the sedimentation of substances. By taking advantage of the varying sedimentation rates of different components, disc centrifugation enables researchers to isolate and purify specific substances from complex mixtures.

The Principle of Disc Centrifugation

Disc centrifugation works on the principle of density gradient centrifugation. This technique takes advantage of the differences in density between particles and the surrounding medium solution. The sample is layered upon a density gradient medium inside a specially designed tube, commonly known as a centrifuge tube or a centrifugal tube. When subjected to high centrifugal forces, the particles migrate through the density gradient until they reach their point of equilibrium, where they no longer experience any net force.

The sedimentation velocity of the particles is determined by their size, shape, and density. Heavier and larger particles sediment faster, whereas lighter and smaller particles sediment slower. This differential sedimentation allows for the separation of various components in the sample, with each settling at a specific position within the density gradient.

The Different Types of Disc Centrifugation

Disc centrifugation encompasses several techniques, each tailored to suit different research purposes and applications. Here, we explore five common types of disc centrifugation:

1. Differential Centrifugation

Differential centrifugation is the simplest and most commonly used form of disc centrifugation. It involves sequential centrifugation steps at increasing speeds to separate particles based on their size and density. The sample is initially spun at a low speed to pellet the larger and heavier particles, while the smaller and lighter particles remain in the supernatant. The supernatant is collected and centrifuged at a higher speed to pellet smaller particles, and so on.

With each centrifugation step, a more specific fraction of particles is separated, allowing for the isolation and purification of different components within the sample. This technique is especially useful in studying cellular organelles, such as mitochondria, nuclei, and lysosomes, as well as for separating various microorganisms.

2. Isopycnic Centrifugation

Isopycnic centrifugation, also known as equilibrium density gradient centrifugation, is used to separate particles based on their buoyant density. In this technique, the sample is subjected to centrifugation in a density gradient medium, typically a solution with a continuous density gradient. The density gradient can be created using various substances, such as sucrose, cesium chloride, or iodixanol.

During centrifugation, the particles move through the density gradient until they reach their point of equilibrium, i.e., the position at which they have the same density as the surrounding medium. At equilibrium, the particles remain suspended in the density gradient without sedimenting further. This technique is particularly useful for compositional analysis, isolation of macromolecules, separation of subcellular components, and determining the buoyant density of particles.

3. Rate-Zonal Centrifugation

Rate-zonal centrifugation is a centrifugation technique used to separate particles based on their sedimentation coefficient. It involves the use of a density gradient medium, such as sucrose or cesium chloride, and the sample is layered on top of this gradient. The speed and duration of centrifugation are carefully controlled to ensure the separation and collection of specific particles from the gradient.

During centrifugation, particles sediment at different rates through the density gradient depending on their size, shape, and density. Consequently, different particles form distinct bands at specific positions along the gradient. By collecting the different bands, researchers can isolate and study specific particles of interest. Rate-zonal centrifugation is widely used in the purification of proteins, separation of DNA fragments, and isolation of viruses.

4. Preparative Centrifugation

Preparative centrifugation is a technique used on a larger scale than analytical centrifugation for batch processing and isolation of target particles. It involves the centrifugation of a large volume of sample in order to obtain purified fractions. Preparative centrifugation techniques include differential centrifugation and isopycnic centrifugation, which are adapted for large-scale separation.

The purification process in preparative centrifugation can be a multistep procedure, with each step aimed at enriching the sample fraction of interest. It is commonly used in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries for large-scale production of proteins, isolation of subcellular components, and purification of viruses for vaccines.

5. Density Gradient Centrifugation

Density gradient centrifugation involves the use of a density gradient medium to separate particles based on their size, shape, and affinity for the medium. The sample is layered onto the density gradient and then subjected to centrifugation. As the particles migrate through the density gradient, they separate into distinct bands or zones at different positions.

This technique is useful for separating particles with similar densities, such as the separation of different RNA species by their respective base pair lengths. Density gradient centrifugation is also employed in the separation of lipoproteins, viral particles, and subcellular components.

In Summary

Disc centrifugation techniques, including differential, isopycnic, rate-zonal, preparative, and density gradient centrifugation, have revolutionized research in numerous scientific disciplines. These techniques enable scientists to isolate, purify, and study specific particles or molecules in complex mixtures. By taking advantage of varying sedimentation rates, densities, and gradients, disc centrifugation plays a vital role in advancing scientific knowledge and facilitating important discoveries across various fields. Whether it is the study of subcellular components, the isolation of proteins, or the purification of viral particles, disc centrifugation remains an invaluable tool for researchers worldwide.


Just tell us your requirements, we can do more than you can imagine.
Send your inquiry

Send your inquiry

Choose a different language
Current language:English