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Answers to some common questions on serum protein electrophoresis
  1. J. J. Ceron, DVM, PhD, DipECVCP1,
  2. M. Caldin, DVM, PhD, DipECVCP2 and
  3. S. Martinez-Subiela, DVM, PhD1
  1. Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Veterinary School, University of Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain
  2. Clinica San Marco, via Sorio n 114/c, 35141 Padua, Italy
  1. e-mail: jjceron{at}

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IN a paper summarised on p 456 of this issue, Tappin and others (2011) created reference intervals for serum protein electrophoresis (SPE) in healthy dogs, and compared these to SPE results obtained from 147 clinical cases. Their paper will contribute to the application of SPE in routine practice, since it examines and reports SPE findings in a large group of dogs with a variety of diseases. Applied studies like this can help answering some common questions that usually arise when SPE is used in clinical practice.

SPE is usually performed manually, by using cellulose acetate or agarose gel, or by automated systems using capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE), a technique that was validated and started being used only recently (Martinez-Subiela and others 2000). When performed manually, SPE is labour-intensive and technically demanding, whereas automated systems are costly to acquire and maintain and can only be used by laboratories with a high throughput of samples. For these reasons, together with the facts that SPE results are rarely needed urgently and that proteins are fairly stable in stored samples, SPE is almost always performed in external diagnostic laboratories.

There are some technical issues that need to be considered for a proper interpretation of SPE.

  • Reference ranges. A very important aspect of the paper by Tappin and others (2011) is the establishment of reference intervals for the fractions identified in SPE. These intervals show evident differences with those recently published also using agarose gel (Giordano and Paltrinieri 2010). The establishment of laboratory-specific reference ranges is a crucial step in SPE since separation, resolution and quantification of the protein fractions can vary markedly depending on the equipment and …

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