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General Laboratory Procedures, Equipment Use, and Safety Considerations 


II. Preparation of Solutions

A. Calculation of Molar, % and "X" Solutions .

 1. A molar solution is one in which 1 liter of solution contains the number of grams equal to its molecular weight. Ex. To make up 100 ml of a 5M NaCl solution = 58.456 (mw of NaCl) g/mol x 5 moles/liter x 0.1 liter = 29.29 g in 100 ml of solution

2. Percent solutions.Percentage (w/v) = weight (g) in 100 ml of solution; Percentage (v/v) = volume (ml) in 100 ml of solution. Ex. To make a 0.7% solution of agarose in TBE buffer, weight 0.7 of agarose and bring up volume to 100 ml with TBE buffer.

3. "X" Solutions. Many enzyme buffers are prepared as concentrated solutions, e.g. 5X or 10X (five or ten times the concentration of the working solution) and are then diluted such that the final concentration of the buffer in the reaction is 1X. Ex. To set up a restriction digestion in 25 μ l, one would add 2.5 μ l of a 10X buffer, the other reaction components, and water to a final volume of 25 μ l.

B. Preparation of Working Solutions from Concentrated Stock Solutions .

Many buffers in molecular biology require the same components but often in varying concentrations. To avoid having to make every buffer from scratch, it is useful to prepare several concentrated stock solutions and dilute as needed. Ex. To make 100 ml of TE buffer (10 mM Tris, 1 mM EDTA), combine 1 ml of a 1 M Tris solution and 0.2 ml of 0.5 M EDTA and 98.8 ml sterile water. The following is useful for calculating amounts of stock solution needed: C i x V i = C f x V f , where C i = initial concentration, or conc of stock solution; V i = initial vol, or amount of stock solution needed C f = final concentration, or conc of desired solution; V f = final vol, or volume of desired solution

C. Steps in Solution Preparation:

  1. Refer to a laboratory reference manual for any specific instructions on preparation of the particular solution and the bottle label for any specific precautions in handling the chemical. Weigh out the desired amount of chemical(s). Use an analytical balance if the amount is less than 0.1 g. Place chemical(s) into appropriate size beaker with a stir bar. Add less than the required amount of water. Prepare all solutions with double distilled water When the chemical is dissolved, transfer to a graduated cylinder and add the required amount of distilled water to achieve the final volume. An exception is in preparing solutions containing agar or agarose. Weigh the agar or agarose directly into the final vessel. If the solution needs to be at a specific pH, check the pH meter with fresh buffer solutions and follow instructions for using a pH meter. Autoclave, if possible, at 121 deg C for 20 min. Some solutions cannot be autoclaved, for example, SDS. These should be filter sterilized through a 0.22 μ m or 0.45 μ m filter. Media for bacterial cultures must be autoclaved the same day it is prepared, preferably within an hour or two. Store at room temperature and check for contamination prior to use by holding the bottle at eye level and gently swirling it Solid media for bacterial plates can be prepared in advance, autoclaved, and stored in a bottle. When needed, the agar can be melted in a microwave, any additional components, e.g. antibiotics, can be added and the plates can then be poured.
  2. Concentrated solutions, e.g. 1M Tris-HCl pH=8.0, 5M NaCl, can be used to make working stocks by adding autoclaved double-distilled water in a sterile vessel to the appropriate amount of the concentrated solution.

D. Glassware and Plastic Ware .

Glass and plastic ware used for molecular biology must be scrupulously clean. Dirty test tubes, bacterial contamination and traces of detergent can inhibit reactions or degrade nucleic acid.

Glassware should be rinsed with distilled water and autoclaved or baked at 150 degrees C for 1 hour. For experiments with RNA, glassware and solutions are treated with diethyl-pyrocarbonate to inhibit RNases which can be resistant to autoclaving. Plastic ware such as pipets and culture tubes are often supplied sterile. Tubes made of polypropylene are turbid and are resistant to many chemicals, like phenol and chloroform; polycarbonate or polystyrene tubes are clear and not resistant to many chemicals. Make sure that the tubes you are using are resistant to the chemicals used in your experiment. Micro pipet tips and microfuge tubes should be autoclaved before use.

This Web page is maintained by Julie B. Wolf, UMBC;
Last updated on 3/2/2010

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