Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 447 Views May 20, 2024

Understanding dendritic excitability is essential for a complete and precise characterization of neurons’ input-output relationships. Theoretical and experimental work demonstrates that the electrotonic and nonlinear properties of dendrites can alter the amplitude (e.g., through amplification) and latency of synaptic inputs as viewed in the axosomatic region where spike timing is determined. The gold-standard technique to study dendritic excitability is using dual-patch recordings with a high-resistance electrode used to patch a piece of distal dendrite in addition to a somatic patch electrode. However, this approach is often impractical when distal dendrites are too fine to patch. Therefore, we developed a technique that utilizes the expression of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to study dendritic excitability in acute brain slices through the combination of a somatic patch electrode and optogenetic activation. The protocol describes how to prepare acute slices from mice that express ChR2 in specific cell types, and how to use two modes of light stimulation: proximal (which activates the soma and proximal dendrites in a ~100 µm diameter surrounding the soma) with the use of a high-magnification objective and full-field stimulation through a low-magnification objective (which activates the entire somato-dendritic field of the neuron). We use this technique in conjunction with various stimulation protocols to estimate model-based spectral components of dendritic filtering and the impact of dendrites on phase response curves, peri-stimulus time histograms, and entrainment of pacemaking neurons. This technique provides a novel use of optogenetics to study intrinsic dendritic excitability through the use of standard patch-clamp slice physiology.

0 Q&A 276 Views Nov 5, 2023

Measuring the action potential (AP) propagation velocity in axons is critical for understanding neuronal computation. This protocol describes the measurement of propagation velocity using a combination of somatic whole cell and axonal loose patch recordings in brain slice preparations. The axons of neurons filled with fluorescent dye via somatic whole-cell pipette can be targeted under direct optical control using the fluorophore-filled pipette. The propagation delays between the soma and 5–7 axonal locations can be obtained by analyzing the ensemble averages of 500–600 sweeps of somatic APs aligned at times of maximal rate-of-rise (dV/dtmax) and axonal action currents from these locations. By plotting the propagation delays against the distance, the location of the AP initiation zone becomes evident as the site exhibiting the greatest delay relative to the soma. Performing linear fitting of the delays obtained from sites both proximal and distal from the trigger zone allows the determination of the velocities of AP backward and forward propagation, respectively.

Key features

• Ultra-thin axons in cortical slices are targeted under direct optical control using the SBFI-filled pipette.

• Dual somatic whole cell and axonal loose patch recordings from 5–7 axonal locations.

• Ensemble averaging of 500–600 sweeps of somatic APs and axonal action currents.

• Plotting the propagation delays against the distance enables the determination of the trigger zone's position and velocities of AP backward and forward propagation.

0 Q&A 787 Views Aug 20, 2023

Intracellular signaling pathways directly and indirectly regulate neuronal activity. In cellular electrophysiological measurements with sharp electrodes or whole-cell patch clamp recordings, there is a great risk that these signaling pathways are disturbed, significantly altering the electrophysiological properties of the measured neurons. Perforated-patch clamp recordings circumvent this issue, allowing long-term electrophysiological recordings with minimized impairment of the intracellular milieu. Based on previous studies, we describe a superstition-free protocol that can be used to routinely perform perforated patch clamp recordings for current and voltage measurements.

0 Q&A 612 Views Jul 20, 2023

Synapses provide the main route of signal transduction within neuronal networks. Many factors regulate critical synaptic functions. These include presynaptic calcium channels, triggering neurotransmitter release, and postsynaptic ionotropic receptors, mediating excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. The key features of synaptic transmission and plasticity can be studied in primary cultured hippocampal neurons. Here, we describe a protocol for the preparation and electrophysiological analysis of paired hippocampal neurons. This model system allows the selective genetic manipulation of one neuron in a simple neuronal network formed by only two hippocampal neurons. Bi-directionally analyzing synaptic transmission and short-term synaptic plasticity allows the analysis of both pre- and postsynaptic effects on synaptic transmission. For example, with one single paired network synaptic responses induced by both, a wild-type neuron and a genetically modified neuron can be directly compared. Ultimately, this protocol allows experimental modulation and hence investigation of synaptic mechanisms and thereby improves previously developed methods of studying synaptic transmission and plasticity in ex vivo cultured neurons.

Key features

• Preparation of ex vivo paired cultured hippocampal neurons.

• Bi-directional electrophysiological recordings of synaptic transmission and plasticity.

• Genetic modulation of synaptic network formation (demonstrated by presynaptic viral overexpression of the auxiliary calcium channel α2δ-2 subunit).

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 1265 Views Mar 20, 2022

The lumen of blood vessels is covered by endothelial cells, which regulate their permeability to ions and solutes. Endothelial permeability depends on the vascular bed and cell phenotype, and is influenced by different disease states. Most characterization of endothelial permeability has been carried out using isolated cells in culture. While analysis of cultured cells is a valuable approach, it does not account for factors of the native cell environment. Building on Ussing chamber studies of intact tissue specimens, here we describe a method to measure the electrophysiological properties of intact arteriole and venule endothelia, including transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) and ion permselectivity. As an example, vessels isolated from the mesentery were treated ex vivo, then mounted in a custom-made tissue cassette that enable their analysis by classical approaches with an Ussing chamber. This method enables a detailed analysis of electrophysiological vessel responses to stresses such as proinflammatory cytokines, in the context of an intact vessel.

Graphic abstract:

0 Q&A 2458 Views Jan 5, 2022

Spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) are the primary neuronal pathway for transmitting sensory information from the inner ear to the brainstem. Recent studies have revealed significant biophysical and molecular diversity indicating that auditory neurons are comprised of sub-groups whose intrinsic properties contribute to their diverse functions. Previous approaches for studying the intrinsic biophysical properties of spiral ganglion neurons relied on patch-clamp and molecular analysis of cultured somata that were disconnected from their pre-synaptic hair cell partners. In the absence of the information provided by cell-to-cell connectivity, such studies could not associate biophysical diversity with functional sub-groups. Here we describe a protocol for preparing, recording, and labeling spiral ganglion neurons in a semi-intact ex-vivo preparation. In these preparations, the cell bodies of spiral ganglion neurons remain connected to their hair cell partners. The recordings are completed within 4 hours of euthanasia, alleviating concerns about whether long culture times and culture conditions change the intrinsic properties of neurons.

0 Q&A 2552 Views Dec 20, 2021

Prokaryotic ion channels have been instrumental in furthering our understanding of many fundamental aspects of ion channels’ structure and function. However, characterizing the biophysical properties of a prokaryotic ion channel in a native membrane system using patch-clamp electrophysiology is technically challenging. Patch-clamp is regarded as a gold standard technique to study ion channel properties in both native and heterologous expression systems. The presence of a cell wall and the small size of bacterial cells makes it impossible to directly patch clamp using microelectrodes. Here, we describe a method for the preparation of giant E. coli spheroplasts in order to investigate the electrophysiological properties of bacterial cell membranes. Spheroplasts are formed by first inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis, followed by enzymatic digestion of the outer cell wall in the presence of a permeabilizing agent. This protocol can be used to characterize the function of any heterologous ion channels or ion transporters expressed in E. coli membranes.

0 Q&A 2116 Views Nov 20, 2021

Severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) survivors experience permanent functional disabilities due to significant volume loss and the brain’s poor capacity to regenerate. Chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans (CS-GAGs) are key regulators of growth factor signaling and neural stem cell homeostasis in the brain. In this protocol, we describe how to perform recordings to quantify the neuroprotective and regenerative effect of implanted engineered CS-GAG hydrogel (eCS) on brain tissue. This experiment was performed in rats under three conditions: healthy without injury (Sham), controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury on the rostral forelimb area (RFA), and CCI-RFA with eCS implants. This protocol describes the procedure used to perform the craniotomy, the positioning of the cortical recording electrode, the positioning of the stimulation electrode (contralateral paw), and the recording procedure. In addition, a description of the exact electrical setup is provided. This protocol details the recordings in the brain of injured animals while preserving most of the uninjured tissue intact, with additional considerations for intralesional and laminar recordings of multi-unit response.

Graphic abstract:

Sensorimotor response to paw stimulation using cortical laminar recordings.

0 Q&A 2038 Views Oct 20, 2021

PC-1 and PC-2 form an ion channel complex called the polycystin complex, which predominantly localizes to a small hair-like organelle called the primary cilium. The polycystin complex permeates cations, K+, Na+, and Ca2+, and has an unusual 1:3 stoichiometry that combines one PC-1 subunit with three PC-2 subunits. However, the small size and shape of primary cilia impose technical challenges to study the polycystin complex in its native environment. In this paper, we describe the methodology to directly record ion channel activity in primary cilia. This method will allow a detailed functional characterization of how mutations within the polycystin complex cause Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), essential to develop novel therapeutics for this ciliopathy.

0 Q&A 3301 Views Aug 5, 2021

The Substantia Nigra pars compacta (SNc) is a midbrain dopaminergic nucleus that plays a key role in modulating motor and cognitive functions. It is crucially involved in several disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by a progressive loss of SNc dopaminergic cells. Electrophysiological studies on SNc neurons are of paramount importance to understand the role of dopaminergic transmission in health and disease. Here, we provide an extensive protocol to prepare SNc-containing mouse brain slices and record the electrical activity of dopaminergic cells. We describe all the necessary steps, including mouse transcardiac perfusion, brain extraction, slice cutting, and patch-clamp recordings.

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