Circular Dichroism (CD)

For information on access fees, policies and getting started at the CMI, see the CMI Access Page.

CD at the CMI

Circular Dichroism (CD) Spectroscopy is used to determine the optical isomerism and secondary structure of molecules. Circular dichroism (measured in molar ellipticity) is the difference in absorption of left-handed and right-handed circularly polarized light and can be observed in optically active molecules with chiral centers. Proteins have many chiral centers. CD spectra in the Far-UV region (185 – 250 nm) can be used to determine protein secondary structure. Characteristic peaks for Thermal stability (Tm) can be measured by following changes in molar ellipticity with increasing temperature.

CD Sample Data

The CMI has a Jasco J-815 CD Spectropolarimeter with a Peltier temperature controller and single cuvette holder.

CD Service

In addition to instrument training, the CMI is now offering basic protein Circular Dichroism Data Collection services, including Far-UV scan and thermal denaturation experiments.

CD Service Overview

Circular Dichroism (CD)

CMI CD Instrument: Jasco J-815

  • Protein Far-UV Scan for Secondary Structure Analysis
    • this will strictly be a data collection service and analysis using CD deconvolution algorithms (e.g. Dichroweb) will be left to the user.
  • Protein Thermal Stability (fixed wavelength variable temperature measurement)


Data Collection Fees Summary

Data Collection Fees

  • Limited Data Collection Services are offered. Service fees will be charged for all completed services, regardless of experimental outcome. 
  • Before submitting samples for data collection, users must approve the estimated charges and be given a date and time for sample delivery.
    • External Users will also be required to submit a PO and a signed CMI User Agreement.
  • Most CMI Data Collection Services include a setup fee plus a per-sample data collection fee. Some services include one or more replicate measurements by default in the sample fee (e.g. DLS and DSF). For others, there may be reduced-price replicate measurement fee (e.g. SEC-MALS and CD) if collected in the same dataset.

Data Collection Fee List

CD Data Collection Fees


base price



Life Lab

CD scan set up fee

Setup fee per dataset (up to 20 scans), includes 1 buffer control. Additional buffers should be listed as samples.





CD scan for secondary structure

Per sample, Far-UV 260-185 nm scan, 5-10 accumulations, in addition to setup fee.





CD replicate sample scan

Replicate sample collected in the same dataset (or alternate temperature scan of existing sample)

$60 $73.20 $146.40 $109.80

CD thermal melt

Per sample, 20-95C scan, 1C interval, 1C/min rate, 30s hold, 1-3 wavelengths, includes CD scan at 20C.





CMI Jasco J-815 CD Getting Started Guide, guide to experimental design and standard Far-UV CD protocols.


Protein Circular Dichroism Data Bank, a database of CD data

Dichroweb, an online circular dichroism analysis suite


The J-815 User Guide is available at the instrument, but not electronically.

  • High Quality Quartz cuvette
    • Far-UV measurements (protein secondary structure):  1 mm pathlength cuvette (eg. Hellma 110-1-40, style 110-QS, available from Sigma-Aldrich)
    • Near-UV measurements:  1 cm pathlength cuvette (eg. Hellma 100-10-40, style 100-QS, available from Sigma-Aldrich)
  • your sample
  • buffer blank

Assay Buffers

Buffer selection is critical for accurate CD measurements. Solvent absorbance can severely interfere with the CD signal. Many commonly used buffers and additives absorb in the far UV region used for CD measurements.

  • The ideal CD experiment is performed in a buffer:
    • in which your protein is well behaved and soluble
    • with no buffer absorbance through the range of the CD spectrum.
  • Always take a scan of your buffer blank to determine whether absorbance interferes with your region of analysis.
    • Ensure that the buffer blank is well matched to the final dilution of your protein (even trace amounts of some solvents will interfere with the CD measurements).
  • Phosphate buffers with little-to-no NaCl are recommended. 10 mM phosphate buffer is ideal.
  • Ideal aqueous solutions contain as little chloride as possible.
    • NaCl and Tris buffers are not recommended but can be tolerated at low concentrations.
    • If salt is required, SO42- or F- are preferred counter ions, as they are transparent in the far UV. Potassium fluoride may be a good substitute for chloride-containing salts.
    • Chloride ions will result in a loss of signal below about 200±5 nm, which affects secondary structure estimation, but generally will not block detection of the alpha-helical peaks (208 nm and 222 nm) or the beta-sheet peak (218 nm).
  • DTT, ß-ME, or EDTA can be present at low concentrations (1 mM).
  • Some detergents are fairly transparent in the far UV (e.g. Chaps and octylglucoside). Triton detergents should be avoided, as they can oxidize readily and form UV-absorbing materials.
  • DMSO, formamides, and imidazole absorb strongly in the far UV region, and thus should be avoided in a CD experiment.


  • An accurate protein concentration is required for all CD experiments.
    • Over-estimating or under-estimating the protein concentration interferes with signal
    • Algorithms that estimate secondary structure depend on correct protein concentrations
  • The amount of sample required for a CD experiment depends on the size, cuvette pathlength and type of measurement being performed.
  • 1 mm pathlength cuvettes hold 300 µl and a 1 cm cuvette holds 3 ml.
  • Required protein concentration is inversely proportional to the cuvette pathlength, and thus a 1 mm path cuvette requires 10x the concentration of a 1 cm cuvette.
  • Recommended concentrations for Far-UV measurements of protein secondary structure are:
    • 0.2 mg/mL in 1 mm path cuvette
    • 0.02 mg/mL in 10 mm patch cuvette
    • Mol/L=115/(MW*7000)*10/pathlength(mm).
    • For alpha-helical proteins you may need ½ this concentration. For beta-sheet proteins, you may need double the concentration. If possible, make a concentrated stock solution of your protein (at least 2X) and dilute as needed.
  • Protein aggregates can interfere with the CD signal.
    • Assess protein heterogeneity via light scattering.
    • Purify protein samples with soluble aggregates by size-exclusion chromatography.
  • Samples can be recovered from the cell. This is not recommended for thermal melts, unless you know your thermal denaturation is reversible.