SDS-PAGE, sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, describes a collection of related techniques to separate proteins according to their electrophoretic mobility (a function of the length of a polypeptide chain and its charge) while in the denatured (unfolded) state. In most proteins, the binding of SDS to the polypeptide chain imparts an even distribution of charge per unit mass, thereby resulting in a fractionation by approximate size during electrophoresis.
SDS is a strong detergent agent used to denature native proteins to unfolded, individual polypeptides. When a protein mixture is heated to 100 °C in presence of SDS, the detergent wraps around the polypeptide backbone. In this process, the intrinsic charges of polypeptides becomes negligible when compared to the negative charges contributed by SDS. Thus polypeptides after treatment become rod-like structures possessing a uniform charge density, that is same net negative charge per unit length. The electrophoretic mobilities of these proteins will be a linear function of the logarithms of their molecular weights.