Thiol-rich peptides such as phytochelatins (PCs) and metallothioneins (MTs) are important cellular chelating agents which function in metal detoxification and/or homeostasis. The variations in molecular sizes and lack of chromophores of these peptides make their analysis difficult. This paper reports an electrophoresis-based method for a broad screen of thiol-rich peptides and proteins. The method uses the thiol-selective fluorescent tag, monobromobimane, coupled with Tricine-sodium dodecyl sulphate-urea polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for a sensitive determination of both PCs and MTs. Results for PCs were confirmed by two-dimensional NMR and HPLC-tandem MS analyses. Sample throughput is substantially improved over chromatography-based methods through parallel sample analysis in 1 h of electrophoretic separation. The method is versatile in that peptides ranging from glutathione to large proteins can be analysed by simple modification(s) of the extraction and electrophoretic conditions, and the nature of the method supports serendipitous detection of unexpected or novel thiol metabolites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalPhytochemical Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Cadmium
  • HPLC-tandem MS
  • Monobromobimane
  • NMR
  • Rice
  • Thiol-rich peptides
  • Tricine-SDS-urea PAGE
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Plant Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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