The European Physical Journal E

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 223–231 | Cite as

Electrical interfacing of neurotransmitter receptor and field effect transistor

  • I. Peitz
  • P. Fromherz
Open Access
Regular Article


The interfacing of a ligand-gated ion channel to a transistor is studied. It relies on the transduction of ion current to a voltage in a cell-transistor junction. For the first time, a genetically modified cell is used without external driving voltage as applied by a patch-pipette. Using a core-coat conductor model, we show that an autonomous dynamics gives rise to a signal if a driving voltage is provided by potassium channels, and if current compensation is avoided by an inhomogeneous activation of channels. In a proof-of-principle experiment, we transfect HEK293 cells with the serotonin receptor 5-HT3A and the potassium channel Kv1.3. The interfacing is characterized under voltage-clamp with a negative transistor signal for activated 5-HT3A and a positive signal for activated Kv1.3. Without patch-pipette, a biphasic transient is induced by serotonin. The positive wave is assigned to 5-HT3A receptors in the free membrane that drive a potassium outward current through the adherent membrane. The negative wave is attributed to 5-HT3A receptors in the adherent membrane that are activated with a delay due to serotonin diffusion. The implementation of a receptor-cell-transistor device is a fundamental step in the development of biosensors that combine high specificity and universal microelectronic readout.


87.85.dh Cells on a chip 85.30.Tv Field effect devices 87.16.Vy Ion channels 


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© The Author(s) 2009

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Membrane and NeurophysicsMax Planck Institute for BiochemistryMartinsried/MunichGermany

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