Wikis > Practical Tips for Chemiluminescent Western Blots

Here are some practical tips from Advansta for every step of your chemiluminescent Western blot.

Tissue Preparation


  • Make sure the gel has no imperfections and is properly set before using.
  • Heat samples prior to loading to break secondary structures. Use a reducing agent when required.
  • Make sure the well size is appropriate for the sample volume to prevent carryover of samples.
  • Do not overload the lane with too much protein; it will cause distortion of the lane.
  • Run the gel at the correct voltage: running the gel at a voltage that is too high can cause fuzzy bands or “smiling” bands.


  • Handle the membrane with gloved hands to prevent marks on the membrane.
  • Use “powder-free” gloves. Particles in powdered gloves can stick to membranes and cause high background.
  • Wash gloved hands before handling membranes and minimize direct contact with working areas. Even non-powdered gloves can contain a tiny amount of residual process chemicals that stick to membranes and cause background or other artifacts.
  • Wash all transfer equipment including transfer pads to reduce background.
  • Make sure PVDF membrane is pre-wetted with methanol.
  • Remove all air bubbles when setting up the transfer sandwich to prevent incomplete transfer or fuzzy bands.
    • Alter the concentration of SDS and methanol in transfer buffer to increase transfer efficiency.
    • Decrease transfer time for smaller proteins, increase transfer time for larger proteins.
    • Use a high performance transfer buffer such as FLASHBlot to enhance transfer efficiency and increase protein retention on the membrane.
  • Chill transfer setup if necessary to prevent overheating.
  • Use prestained molecular weight markers to monitor transfer.
  • Use AdvanStain Ponceau or a similar stain to visualize transfer efficiency.


  • Prepare blocking buffer fresh just before use to prevent contamination and high background.
  • Filter the blocking solution to prevent clumps that will stick to the membrane causing speckles and blotches.
  • Completely solubilize detergent in the blocking buffer prior to use to prevent high background.
  • Optimize the blocking agent to reduce background and increase signal.
    • Be aware that excessive blocking can mask some antigens. Use 1% milk rather than 5%.
    • Try different blocking agents to reduce background.
      • Primary antibodies can recognize components of blocking agents causing high background.
      • Some detection reagents cross-react with blocking solutions.
    • Use a protein free blocking agent such as AdvanBlock-PF.
  • Use a TBS-based buffer system when detecting phospho-proteins.
  • Do not use milk-based blockers or casein if you plan to use any biotinylated antibody and streptavidin detectors. Milk contains biotin and will cause high background when combined with these reagents.

Incubations and Washes

  • Keep all containers and solutions free of dirt to prevent background on blot.
  • Cover containers when incubating or washing blot to prevent particulates from falling onto the blot.
  • Use a shaker to prevent uneven distribution of buffers.
  • Increase wash time to decrease high background.
  • Decrease wash time to increase signal.


  • Make sure the primary antibody can detect the protein of interest under the conditions used (i.e. some antibodies only recognize tertiary structures in native proteins).
  • Titrate primary and secondary antibodies to find the optimum concentrations for each experiment.
  • To decrease general background, dilute the secondary antibody further.
  • To decrease multiple bands that are non-specific, dilute the primary antibody further.
  • Use positive and negative control samples to make sure the antibody is detecting the right target.
  • Centrifuge antibody aliquots prior to removing sample to avoid aggregates that can cause patches or splotches on the blot.
  • Optimize the primary antibody incubation time. While a 1-2 hour incubation at room temperature works well for most antibodies, some antibodies require an overnight incubation at 4°C for optimum performance.


  • If refrigerated, bring the substrate to room temperature prior to use for optimum enzyme activity.
  • If using Advansta’s WesternBright substrates, always keep them at room temperature. Storing these substrates in a refrigerator can reduce their shelf life.
  • Make sure all wash buffer is sufficiently drained from the membrane prior to incubation with the substrate. The pH of the substrate is different than the pH of the wash buffer. If the substrate is diluted with wash buffer, then the pH change can shorten the signal duration.
  • Always cover the blot with sufficient substrate; 0.1 ml of substrate per 1 cm2 of membrane is recommended.
  • Don’t let the membrane dry out after adding substrate. Cover it with saran wrap or plastic covers.
  • After adding substrate to the membrane, wait 2-5 minutes (following the manufacturer’s recommendations) for the reaction to reach peak light generation.
  • To troubleshoot substrate issues, use a positive control for substrate development such as Advansta’s WesternBright ChemiPen.
  • Don’t strip and reuse the blot. Stripping removes protein from the blot.

Photo courtesy of Anne Swoboda.