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Detergents - Anionic, Cationic, Zwitterionic, Anti-foaming

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Detergents are surfactants or compounds that decrease the surface tension between two liquids or liquids and solids by solubilizing hydrophobic molecules. These water-soluble surface-active agents are comprised of a hydrophobic portion, usually a long alkyl chain, attached to hydrophilic or water solubility-enhancing functional groups. Detergents are commonly used in biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology for cell lysis, membrane protein and lipid purification, protein crystallization, and reduction of background staining in blotting experiments.   

We offer a broad range of biological detergents and surfactants to meet your research and manufacturing needs, including biodegradable alternatives per OECD 301F, such as TERGITOL™ 15-S and ECOSURF™ surfactants. Our detergent products include: anionic detergents, cationic detergents, zwitterionic detergents, non-ionic detergents, and anti-foaming agents. Our portfolio of chemically-stable products spans from reagent grade for general lab use to highly purified grades for the most demanding applications. Bulk and custom ordering options provide the same product from bench top to large scale manufacturing under ISO 90001:2008 certifications. 

Dive into the comparison of Greener Detergents in Mammalian Cell Lysis & Downstream Application. 

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Ionic Detergents

Non-ionic Detergents

Zwitterionic Detergents


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Ionic Detergents

Ionic detergents contain anionic or cationic head groups and possess a net charge. Their hydrophobic tails are either straight hydrocarbon chains, as in sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), or rigid steroidal groups, as in bile acid salts. Ionic detergents are extremely effective in membrane protein solubilization but are almost always denaturing to some extent. Bile acid salts are anionic detergents with backbones consisting of rigid steroidal groups, e.g., sodium salts of cholic acid and deoxycholic acid. Because of their planar structure, these molecules have a polar and a nonpolar face. As a result, their CMC’s are high and their micelles are small, which makes them easy to remove by dialysis.

Non-ionic Detergents

Non-ionic detergents contain uncharged, hydrophilic head groups that consist of either polyoxyethylene moieties, as in BRIJ® and Triton™ Detergents, or glycosidic groups, as in octyl glucoside and dodecyl maltoside. Since non-ionic detergents break lipid-lipid and lipid-protein, but not protein-protein interactions, they are considered non-denaturing. Thus, these gentle detergents are widely used in membrane protein isolation in their biologically active form. Unlike ionic detergents, salts have minimal effect on the micellar size of non-ionic detergents.

Zwitterionic Detergents

Zwitterionic detergents have characteristics of both ionic and non-ionic types. Like non-ionic detergents, the zwittergents do not possess a net charge, lack conductivity and electrophoretic mobility, and do not bind to ion-exchange resins. Therefore, they are often useful alternatives to non-ionic detergents in ion-exchange chromatography, electrophoresis, and isoelectric focusing. However, like ionic detergents, they are efficient at breaking protein-protein interactions. Steroid-based zwittergents, such as CHAPS, are less denaturing than linear-chain zwitterionic detergents (e.g., dodecyldimethyldiamine oxide).

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