Cell Lysis: Which Method is Best?

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Tal Shechter
May 23, 2016
min read
Cell Lysis: Which Method is Best?

Tissue preparation is an incredibly common process on the road to working with cell lysates and intracellular molecules. The lysis process, however, varies depending on cell type, molecule of interest, and equipment access, as airing an experiment with its appropriate lysis method can help to accomplish valuable data. Below is a breakdown of common lysis methods- how each works and important pros/cons to consider.

Chemical Disruption

Chemical lysis works through the actions of detergents, which disrupt the hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions within the cell wall and membrane. The chemical composition of each detergent allows it to effectively disrupt specific cell types, depending on their biochemical properties. Although ideal for small samples, scaling a chemical disruption method can be financially draining.

Enzyme Treatment

Enzyme treatment can be highly effective for applications like breaking down cell walls, promoting DNA isolation, generating protoplasts, and removing unwanted contaminants. The type of enzyme used is determined by its intended use; for example, proteases like trypsin and collagenase can release individual cells from tissue, while cellulases can yield protoplasts from plant cells. Although useful specifically for its ability to produce an uncontaminated lysate, as with chemical disruption, enzyme treatment can be rather costly to scale. (1)


Used most frequently with solid samples, mechanical (as opposed to the chemical methods listed above) grinding is achieved through the sliding of one or both surfaces enclosing a sample. The friction caused by this process can effectively rupture cells, which are oftentimes frozen ahead of time. For example, plant tissues frozen in liquid nitrogen, even with their rigid walls, can be effectively disrupted by the dual forces of pressure and shear. (2) While a mortar and pestle is the best-known grinding tool, other options such as glass homogenizers and grain mills also exist. (3)

High Pressure Homogenization

As with grinding, high pressure homogenization uses mechanical force to effectively lyse cells. Specifically, it uses intensive pressure along with forces like turbulence and cavitation to lyse a sufficient percentage of cells in an impressive 1-2 passes. This method is well-matched with diverse species like bacteria and fungus, which may require distinct processes; because some homogenizers are customizable, one machine could potentially work for multiple species.

Pion: Homogenizers That Effectively Disrupt Cells

Researchers who require cell lysates, DNA, RNA, or protein extract should have access to a high pressure homogenizer. On determining which homogenizer will be the best fit, the search can begin with Pion's BEE brand technology. We are globally recognized among laboratory managers and researchers for our high quality products and excellent customer support.

Cell lysis is just one of a variety of applications for Pion's BEE brand homogenizers; nano/micro emulsions, lipids, suspensions, and dispersions are also easily achievable. Additionally, the homogenizer processes can be controlled to suit any given product, which will allow for customization to the cell type. And finally, the equipment is easy to use, produces higher yield in less time, and achieves results that are reproducible and scalable.

Learn more about how to effectively lyse your cell sample by contacting us today.

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