What We Have Learned from Patch Recordings of Cultured Cells

  • Li-Yen Mae Huang
Part of the Current Topics in Neurobiology book series (CTNB)


Dissociated neural cell cultures have been used as model systems to study a host of questions in neurobiology such as regulation of cell differentiation, interactions between cells, mechanisms of morphogenesis and synaptogenesis. Because culture systems are experimentally accessible to anatomical, biochemical, and pharmacological techniques, they provide the investigator with a great deal of information as well as the opportunity to correlate the knowledge obtained from various techniques. Until recently, these advantages of culture systems had not been exploited in studies of the gating properties of ion channels in the excitable membrane. The main reason is that cultured neuronal cells are usually quite small (<30 μm in diameter). Conventional voltage-clamp techniques, which have been used so successfully in nonmammalian preparations, such as squid axon and frog node, cannot be employed as effectively in cultured systems. Membrane potentials in cultured cells are commonly measured with microelectrodes. The tip resistance of microelectrodes used in these cells is usually high, ranging from 10 to 100 MΩ. This results in poor time resolution of the microelectrode voltage clamp. Moreover, electrode penetration often inflicts cell injury, and the ion composition of the cell interior cannot be controlled with this technique. Thus, electrophysiologists were reluctant to choose cultured cells as their preparations despite the successes of some research groups (Moolenaar and Spector, 1977, 1978; Nathan and DeHaan, 1979; Ebihara et al., 1980).


Acetylcholine Receptor Growth Cone Anterior Pituitary Cell Adrenal Chromaffin Cell Culture Muscle Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li-Yen Mae Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biomedical Institute and Department of Physiology and BiophysicsUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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