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Open Access Highly Accessed Technical Note

A simple protocol for the subcellular fractionation of skeletal muscle cells and tissue

Ivan Dimauro2, Timothy Pearson1, Daniela Caporossi2 and Malcolm J Jackson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, Institute of Ageing & Chronic Disease, University of Liverpool, Daulby Street, Liverpool L69 3GA, United Kingdom

2 Department of Health Sciences, University of Rome “Foro Italico”, Piazza Lauro De Bosis 15, 00194, Rome, Italy

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:513  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-513

Published: 20 September 2012



We describe a method for subcellular fractionation of mouse skeletal muscle, myoblast and myotubes to obtain relatively pure fractions of nuclear, cytosolic and mitochondrial compartments. Fractionation allows the analysis of a protein of interest (or other cellular component) based on its subcellular compartmental distribution and can also generate molecular information about the state of a cell and/or tissue and how the distribution of a protein may differ between different cellular compartments, tissues or cell types, in response to treatments or ageing.


The described method was specifically developed for skeletal muscle and proliferating/differentiated muscle cells. The purity of the different fractions, representing the cytoplasmic, mitochondrial and nuclear subcellular compartments was validated by western blot analysis of “house-keeper” marker proteins specific for each cellular compartment.


This low cost method allowed the mitochondrial, cytoplasmic and nuclear subcellular compartments from the same starting muscle samples to be rapidly and simultaneously isolated with good purity and without the use of an ultracentrifuge. This method permits samples to be frozen at −80°C for future analysis and/or additional processing at a later date.

Skeletal muscle; Subcellular fractionation; Western blotting