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Bead Beating Lysing Matrix Characteristics

Lysing matrix refers to the physical beads used to mechanically lyse and homogenize samples. Lysing matrices differ by size, shape, material, and composition. When selecting the appropriate beads, consider your sample type, the desired particle size you wish to obtain, and the stability (or vulnerability to degradation) of your target molecule.

Size Matters:

You should select the matrix bead size based on the particle size you aim to obtain in your lysate. The smaller the beads used in the lysing matrix, the smaller the average particle size within the sample produced from disruption. Bead sizes range from microns to centimeters, and the range can vary depending on the bead material. In some cases, multiple sizes may be necessary to get the desired pulverization.

Lysing Bead Shape Dictates How Cells Are Disrupted

Bead shape determines how cells are disrupted and influences how aggressive the lysing and homogenization process is. Lysing beads are classified as spherical—utilizing impaction and hammering as the leading force—and angular—generating mechanical shear forces to chop and cut samples.

Choose the lysing bead shape based on your sample type and specific application. Angular shaped matrices, such as satellites, are sharp and can quickly lyse and grind challenging samples, such as difficult-to-disrupt cell walls and fibrous tissue. While shear force is ideal for isolating stable molecules, such as DNA and small molecules, dull, spherical matrices are preferable for isolating organelles or unstable molecules, such as RNA and specific proteins.

Material: Tough Samples Need Hard Beads

Several different types of materials are available for cell disruption, and each has advantages and disadvantages. The lysing beads' material determines density, hardness, durability, and chemical resistance, which influence lysis efficiency and the integrity of target analytes. The lysing bead's hardness must be greater than the sample, with higher hardness being more effective for pulverizing hard and brittle cell membranes. Individual bead types are sufficient to lyse some samples, but more challenging samples may require a combination of bead materials.

  • Silica – This is the least dense, least hard material and is generally spherical and smaller than other bead material types, making it the least aggressive. Silica is primarily used for disrupting microorganisms.
  • Ceramic – It is higher in density and strength than silica and is chemically inert, so it will not bind nucleic acids. It is appropriate for soft animal tissues, plant tissue, and whole insects.
  • Silicon Carbide – A relatively low density and high strength and hardness, making it useful for disrupting tough, hard, or brittle cell membranes. This material is practical for isolating intact organelles, super-molecular structures, RNA, and protein, where lysis conditions require high impaction but low shearing.
  • Glass – A low durability and density material, but widely used due to low cost. It is inert but can be modified or derivatized using silane chemistry. Glass beads can be used in combination with other bead materials to reduce shearing intensity.
  • Zirconium Silicate – This is higher in density than glass but lower than stainless steel and zirconium oxide. It can be partially modified or derivatized using silane chemistry.
  • Zirconium Oxide – A material with high density, durability, and hardness. It can break very tough and hard samples, including organisms with a dense exterior matrix. To increase hardness, density, and durability, zirconium oxide beads can be yttria-stabilized or ceria-stabilized.
  • Stainless Steel – The hardest and most dense of all material types, generating high impaction with minimal shearing—making stainless steel beads and balls suitable for RNA extraction from difficult samples. A disadvantage is that they may react with phenol and acids, which might interfere with sample processes.
  • Garnet – Garnet matrix is highly aggressive, making it very effective for DNA isolation but potentially too harsh for RNA and protein isolation applications. It is chemically inert and will not bind nucleic acids. In combination with zirconium, it can lyse almost any sample.
Selecting the Right Composition

A combination of grinding media sizes, shapes, and materials within a single sample can help optimize cell disruption. There are some high-quality, ready-to-use products available on the market. For instance, MP Bio offers a wide variety of lysing beads and matrices and the BiopulverizerTM Lysing Matrix Set optimized to rapidly provide the highest yields of nucleic acids and proteins from any sample type and application while avoiding cross-contamination.

Lysing Matrices

Get reproducible homogenization with MP Bio's bead beating tubes and ready-to-use lysing matrices for any sample type.

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Bead Beating Performance

Here, we refer to bead beating performance in terms of the lysing matrix's aggressiveness, which depends on bead size, shape, material, and composition. Generally, small spherical beads are less aggressive than large angular beads; low density and "softer" beads are less aggressive than high density, harder beads. Understanding each lysing bead characteristic's impact is essential when choosing a matrix to lyse and homogenize your sample effectively. As your matrix composition becomes more complex, it can become increasingly difficult to understand its performance. Below are some general guides:

  • The least aggressive matrices are small, low density, less hard spheres. These result in a low shear with medium impaction and are best for samples with a soft cell wall and small cell size.
  • The highest aggressive matrices are large, angular, high density, harder beads. These result in a high shear with high impaction and are best for dense samples with an elastic cell wall and medium to large cell size.
  • Moderately aggressive matrices are generated by combining low and high aggressive matrix characteristics and are appropriate for hard samples with a brittle cell wall and small to large cell size. Lysing matrices that are large and angular with lower density and hardness generate a medium shear with medium to high impaction. Alternatively, small matrices as hard spheres with high density cause a low shear and high impaction.

Choosing Bead Beating Technology Based on Sample Type and Application

Samples vary in density, hardness, and cell size, requiring different lysing beads and homogenization approaches. For instance, gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria are sufficiently lysed with a matrix that produces low shear, medium impaction, while bone samples may require a matrix that has high shear, high impaction. Additionally, the specific application or target molecule to be isolated (e.g., DNA, RNA, protein, etc.) could dictate what lysing beads are appropriate or risky, as some molecules' integrity is more vulnerable than others.

Soft cell wall and small cell size:
  • Sample Type Examples: Bacteria, Yeast, Algae, Insects, Worms, Mammalian cells, Soil, Sludge
  • Performance Need: Least aggressive—low shear, medium impaction
  • Lysing Matrix Characteristics: lower density, less hardness, spherical, small size
  • Lysing Matrix Material: Silica, ceramic, glass
  • Suggested MP Bio Lysing Matrix: B, C, D, E, H
Hard, brittle cell wall and large cell size:
  • Sample Type Examples: Bacteria, Yeast & Fungi, Wood, Seeds, Leaf, Coral Emulsions
  • Performance Need: Moderately aggressive—medium shear, medium to high impaction
  • Lysing Matrix Characteristics: lower density, less hardness, angular shape, larger size
  • Lysing Matrix Material: Silicon carbide, zirconium oxide and ceramic
  • Suggested MP Bio Lysing Matrix: F, G, J
Hard, brittle cell wall and small to large cell size:
  • Sample Type Examples: Seeds, Whole Insects, Bone, Non-viable Tissues, Skeletal Muscle
  • Performance Need: Moderately aggressive—low shear, high impaction
  • Lysing Matrix Characteristics: higher density, more hardness, spherical, small size
  • Lysing Matrix Material: Stainless steel, yttria-stabilized zirconium oxide beads, zirconium silicate
  • Suggested MP Bio Lysing Matrix: I, K, S, SS, Y, Z
Dense, elastic cell wall and medium to large cell size:
  • Sample Type Examples: Bone, Plant Needles
  • Performance Need: Most aggressive—high shear, high impaction
  • Lysing Matrix Characteristics: higher density, more hardness, angular shape, larger size
  • Lysing Matrix Material: Garnet matrix, large satellites, large ceramic beads
  • Suggested MP Bio Lysing Matrix: A, M

Finding a balance between sample mass, vessel volume, and lysing matrix is critical to effective lysis and homogenization. Generally, the sample should not take up more than ⅙ of the vessel volume and the lysing matrix no more than ⅓.

MP Bio makes it easy to select the right lysing matrix for your sample and offers a wide selection of pre-packaged, ready-to-use lysing matrix tubes ranging from 2 mL to 50 mL, as well as 96-well racks. FastPrep® Lysing Matrix tubes go from low to high impaction, breaking down any sample type whether the cell walls are hard or soft.

Lysing Matrix A

An all-purpose solution to lyse most sample types including animals, plants, and microorganisms.

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Bead Beating Systems

Samples must be vigorously agitated with the lysing matrix for successful lysis and homogenization. While vortexers, which use a swirling motion, can be used to disrupt microorganisms, it is less efficient than bead beating devices and is ineffective for homogenizing solid tissues. For laboratories processing numerous sample types, it is ideal to use designated bead beating devices that oscillate tubes—enabling better grinding and mechanical tissue homogenization.

High throughput homogenizers, such as the FastPrep96, use a linear motion that focuses the kinetic energy of the lysing matrix on the sample and can process samples in deep well plates in addition to other formats.

FastPrep-24™ 5G bead beating grinder and lysis system

Homogenize samples in 40 seconds or less with MB Bio’s versatile and dependable bead beating system.

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Bead Beating for Specialized Applications

Particularly resistant samples, such as tough seeds, bone, rock, or wood, may need more aggressive bead beating for effective grinding, lysing, and homogenization and may require specific conditions to maintain the sample's integrity and avoid contamination.

Some examples of specialized applications include dry grinding very tough or hard samples that generate heat, which can damage plastic tubes; cryogenic homogenization with severe cold temperatures, which can damage plastic tubes; non-biological samples or forensics where plastic contamination is a concern; and using solvents or chemicals that are incompatible with plastics. Stainless steel bead beating tubes and specific bead beaters and homogenizer devices, such as MP Bio's FastPrep-24TM instrument, are ideal for these types of applications.

Metal Lysing Tube , 2 mL, with grinding cylinder

The stainless steel lysing matrix tube with cylinder is ideal for grinding, lysis and homogenization of your most resistant samples.

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Bead beating is an effective life sciences approach to mechanically disrupting biological samples, such as plants, microbes, and human tissues. The size, shape, material, and composition of the lysing matrix dictate how it will perform. Selecting the appropriate lysing matrix and lysing beads depends on sample type, ideal pulverization outcome, and target molecule (e.g., DNA, RNA, or protein). Find a complete array of bead beating resources and solutions for any sample type at MP Biomedicals.

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