In order to understand the structural basis of charge differences among enzyme variants without undertaking purification and sequencing of the protein, an original approach was developed. The approach is applicable to any enzyme or protein provided that there is a specific staining procedure. This consists, as a first step, in the projection of electrophoretically obtained mobility values versus pI of all variants into a two-dimensional profile. In a second step, starting from the most common variant, various theoretical possibilities of substitutions are envisaged, taking into consideration the pH of the electrophoretic conditions, pI of the variants and range of variations of the pK values of several amino acid side chains. In a third step, verification of the theoretical data is obtained through comparative protein titration curves by combined isoelectrofocusing-electrophoresis of several pairs of relevant variants. The validity of this approach is tested on the highly polymorphic carboxylesterase B enzyme of Escherichia coli and is found to provide valuable information.

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