Capillary electrophoretic analysis of μ- and m-calpain using fluorescently labeled casein substrates

Xuelin Gu, Georgianna Whipple-VanPatter, Mary O'Dwyer, Michael Zeece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Calpains are unique calcium-dependent thiol proteases that have been proposed to participate in a number of physiological processes including signal transduction and protein turnover in skeletal muscle. Calpains exist in two major forms. Interestingly, the two forms of protease show no significant difference in their action on various substrates. The only demonstrable difference in their activity involves the concentration of calcium required for activation. Both μ- and m-calpains typically achieve half maximal activation at 50 μM and 0.7 mM calcium, respectively. The focus of this study was to examine the action of both forms of calpain on casein substrates and assess whether any differences could be observed in the resulting peptide finger print using capillary electrophoresis. Purified μ- and m-calpain were incubated for various lengths of time with Oregon Green labeled αs- and β-casein. The reactions were stopped with sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and products separated by capillary electrophoresis in micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography (MEKC) mode using laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) detection. Comparison of the electropherograms showed no difference in the peptide profile for either enzyme. However, it was found that β-casein was hydrolyzed more extensively than αs-casein, by both enzymes. Capillary electrophoresis was found to be a very sensitive technique for detection of calpain activity. Using β-casein as substrate, the CE approach was able to detect 2-3 ng of calpain activity. The results also suggest that capillary electrophoresis is a useful tool for proteolytic investigations of protein structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2336-2342
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001


  • Calpain
  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • Casein
  • Proteolytic specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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