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Functional expression of T-type Ca2+ channels in spinal motoneurons of the adult turtle.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
Voltage-gated Ca2+ (CaV) channels are transmembrane proteins comprising three subfamilies named CaV1, CaV2 and CaV3. The CaV3 channel subfamily groups the low-voltage activated Ca2+ channels (LVA or T-type) a significant role in regulating neuronal excitability. CaV3 channel activity may lead to the generation of complex patterns of action potential firing such as the postinhibitory rebound (PIR). In the adult spinal cord, these channels have been found in dorsal horn interneurons where they control physiological events near the resting potential and participate in determining excitability. In motoneurons, CaV3 channels have been found during development, but their functional expression has not yet been reported in adult animals. Here, we show evidence for the presence of CaV3 channel-mediated PIR in motoneurons of the adult turtle spinal cord. Our results indicate that Ni2+ and NNC55-0396, two antagonists of CaV3 channel activity, inhibited PIR in the adult turtle spinal cord. Molecular biology and biochemical assays revealed the expression of the CaV3.1 channel isotype and its localization in motoneurons. Together, these results provide evidence for the expression of CaV3.1 channels in the spinal cord of adult animals and show also that these channels may contribute to determine the excitability of motoneurons.
The spinal motoneuron has long been a good model system for studying neural function because it is a neuron of the central nervous system with the unique properties of (1) having readily identifiable targets (the muscle fibers) and therefore having a very well-known function (to control muscle contraction); (2) being the convergent target of many spinal and descending networks, hence the name of "final common pathway"; and (3) having a large soma which makes it possible to penetrate them with sharp intracellular electrodes. Furthermore, when studied in vivo, it is possible to record simultaneously the electrical activity of the motoneurons and the force developed by their muscle targets. Performing intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo therefore put the experimentalist in the unique position of being able to study, at the same time, all the compartments of the "motor unit" (the name given to the motoneuron, its axon, and the muscle fibers it innervates1): the inputs impinging on the motoneuron, the electrophysiological properties of the motoneuron, and the impact of these properties on the physiological function of the motoneurons, i.e. the force produced by its motor unit. However, this approach is very challenging because the preparation cannot be paralyzed and thus the mechanical stability for the intracellular recording is reduced. Thus, this kind of experiments has only been achieved in cats and in rats. However, the study of spinal motor systems could make a formidable leap if it was possible to perform similar experiments in normal and genetically modified mice. For technical reasons, the study of the spinal networks in mice has mostly been limited to neonatal in vitro preparations, where the motoneurons and the spinal networks are immature, the motoneurons are separated from their targets, and when studied in slices, the motoneurons are separated from most of their inputs. Until recently, only a few groups had managed to perform intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo2-4 , including our team who published a new preparation which allowed us to obtain very stable recordings of motoneurons in vivo in adult mice5,6. However, these recordings were obtained in paralyzed animals, i.e. without the possibility to record the force output of these motoneurons. Here we present an extension of this original preparation in which we were able to obtain simultaneous recordings of the electrophysiological properties of the motoneurons and of the force developed by their motor unit. This is an important achievement, as it allows us to identify the different types of motoneurons based on their force profile, and thereby revealing their function. Coupled with genetic models disturbing spinal segmental circuitry7-9, or reproducting human disease10,11, we expect this technique to be an essential tool for the study of spinal motor system.
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Preparation of Drosophila Central Neurons for in situ Patch Clamping
Authors: Stefanie Ryglewski, Carsten Duch.
Institutions: Arizona State University .
Short generation times and facile genetic techniques make the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster an excellent genetic model in fundamental neuroscience research. Ion channels are the basis of all behavior since they mediate neuronal excitability. The first voltage gated ion channel cloned was the Drosophila voltage gated potassium channel Shaker1,2. Toward understanding the role of ion channels and membrane excitability for nervous system function it is useful to combine powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila with in situ patch clamp recordings. For many years such recordings have been hampered by the small size of the Drosophila CNS. Furthermore, a robust sheath made of glia and collagen constituted obstacles for patch pipette access to central neurons. Removal of this sheath is a necessary precondition for patch clamp recordings from any neuron in the adult Drosophila CNS. In recent years scientists have been able to conduct in situ patch clamp recordings from neurons in the adult brain3,4 and ventral nerve cord of embryonic5,6, larval7,8,9,10, and adult Drosophila11,12,13,14. A stable giga-seal is the main precondition for a good patch and depends on clean contact of the patch pipette with the cell membrane to avoid leak currents. Therefore, for whole cell in situ patch clamp recordings from adult Drosophila neurons must be cleaned thoroughly. In the first step, the ganglionic sheath has to be treated enzymatically and mechanically removed to make the target cells accessible. In the second step, the cell membrane has to be polished so that no layer of glia, collagen or other material may disturb giga-seal formation. This article describes how to prepare an identified central neuron in the Drosophila ventral nerve cord, the flight motoneuron 5 (MN515), for somatic whole cell patch clamp recordings. Identification and visibility of the neuron is achieved by targeted expression of GFP in MN5. We do not aim to explain the patch clamp technique itself.
Neuroscience, Issue 68, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Patch clamp, in situ patch clamp, Drosophila, electrophysiology, motoneuron, neuron, CNS
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An Ex Vivo Laser-induced Spinal Cord Injury Model to Assess Mechanisms of Axonal Degeneration in Real-time
Authors: Starlyn L. M. Okada, Nicole S. Stivers, Peter K. Stys, David P. Stirling.
Institutions: University of Louisville, University of Calgary.
Injured CNS axons fail to regenerate and often retract away from the injury site. Axons spared from the initial injury may later undergo secondary axonal degeneration. Lack of growth cone formation, regeneration, and loss of additional myelinated axonal projections within the spinal cord greatly limits neurological recovery following injury. To assess how central myelinated axons of the spinal cord respond to injury, we developed an ex vivo living spinal cord model utilizing transgenic mice that express yellow fluorescent protein in axons and a focal and highly reproducible laser-induced spinal cord injury to document the fate of axons and myelin (lipophilic fluorescent dye Nile Red) over time using two-photon excitation time-lapse microscopy. Dynamic processes such as acute axonal injury, axonal retraction, and myelin degeneration are best studied in real-time. However, the non-focal nature of contusion-based injuries and movement artifacts encountered during in vivo spinal cord imaging make differentiating primary and secondary axonal injury responses using high resolution microscopy challenging. The ex vivo spinal cord model described here mimics several aspects of clinically relevant contusion/compression-induced axonal pathologies including axonal swelling, spheroid formation, axonal transection, and peri-axonal swelling providing a useful model to study these dynamic processes in real-time. Major advantages of this model are excellent spatiotemporal resolution that allows differentiation between the primary insult that directly injures axons and secondary injury mechanisms; controlled infusion of reagents directly to the perfusate bathing the cord; precise alterations of the environmental milieu (e.g., calcium, sodium ions, known contributors to axonal injury, but near impossible to manipulate in vivo); and murine models also offer an advantage as they provide an opportunity to visualize and manipulate genetically identified cell populations and subcellular structures. Here, we describe how to isolate and image the living spinal cord from mice to capture dynamics of acute axonal injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, spinal cord injury, axon, myelin, two-photon excitation microscopy, Nile Red, axonal degeneration, axonal dieback, axonal retraction
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Promotion of Survival and Differentiation of Neural Stem Cells with Fibrin and Growth Factor Cocktails after Severe Spinal Cord Injury
Authors: Paul Lu, Lori Graham, Yaozhi Wang, Di Wu, Mark Tuszynski.
Institutions: Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Diego, University of California, San Diego.
Neural stem cells (NSCs) can self-renew and differentiate into neurons and glia. Transplanted NSCs can replace lost neurons and glia after spinal cord injury (SCI), and can form functional relays to re-connect spinal cord segments above and below a lesion. Previous studies grafting neural stem cells have been limited by incomplete graft survival within the spinal cord lesion cavity. Further, tracking of graft cell survival, differentiation, and process extension had not been optimized. Finally, in previous studies, cultured rat NSCs were typically reported to differentiate into glia when grafted to the injured spinal cord, rather than neurons, unless fate was driven to a specific cell type. To address these issues, we developed new methods to improve the survival, integration and differentiation of NSCs to sites of even severe SCI. NSCs were freshly isolated from embryonic day 14 spinal cord (E14) from a stable transgenic Fischer 344 rat line expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) and were embedded into a fibrin matrix containing growth factors; this formulation aimed to retain grafted cells in the lesion cavity and support cell survival. NSCs in the fibrin/growth factor cocktail were implanted two weeks after thoracic level-3 (T3) complete spinal cord transections, thereby avoiding peak periods of inflammation. Resulting grafts completely filled the lesion cavity and differentiated into both neurons, which extended axons into the host spinal cord over remarkably long distances, and glia. Grafts of cultured human NSCs expressing GFP resulted in similar findings. Thus, methods are defined for improving neural stem cell grafting, survival and analysis of in vivo findings.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, nervous system diseases, wounds and injuries, biological factors, therapeutics, surgical procedures, neural stem cells, transplantation, spinal cord injury, fibrin, growth factors
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Identification of Specific Sensory Neuron Populations for Study of Expressed Ion Channels
Authors: Renuka Ramachandra, Stephanie McGrew, Keith Elmslie.
Institutions: AT Still University of Health Sciences.
Sensory neurons transmit signals from various parts of the body to the central nervous system. The soma for these neurons are located in the dorsal root ganglia that line the spinal column. Understanding the receptors and channels expressed by these sensory afferent neurons could lead to novel therapies for disease. The initial step is to identify the specific subset of sensory neurons of interest. Here we describe a method to identify afferent neurons innervating the muscles by retrograde labeling using a fluorescent dye DiI (1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate). Understanding the contribution of ion channels to excitation of muscle afferents could help to better control excessive excitability induced by certain disease states such as peripheral vascular disease or heart failure. We used two approaches to identify the voltage dependent ion channels expressed by these neurons, patch clamp electrophysiology and immunocytochemistry. While electrophysiology plus pharmacological blockers can identify functional ion channel types, we used immunocytochemistry to identify channels for which specific blockers were unavailable and to better understand the ion channel distribution pattern in the cell population. These techniques can be applied to other areas of the nervous system to study specific neuronal groups.
Neuroscience, Issue 82, DiI, patch clamp, sensory neurons, muscle afferent neurons, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology
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In Vivo SiRNA Transfection and Gene Knockdown in Spinal Cord via Rapid Noninvasive Lumbar Intrathecal Injections in Mice
Authors: Christian Njoo, Celine Heinl, Rohini Kuner.
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
This report describes a step-by-step guide to the technique of acute intrathecal needle injections in a noninvasive manner, i.e. independent of catheter implantation. The technical limitation of this surgical technique lies in the finesse of the hands. The injection is rapid, especially for a trained experimenter, and since tissue disruption with this technique is minimal, repeated injections are possible; moreover immune reaction to foreign tools (e.g. catheter) does not occur, thereby giving a better and more specific read out of spinal cord modulation. Since the application of the substance is largely limited to the target region of the spinal cord, drugs do not need to be applied in large dosages, and more importantly unwanted effects on other tissue, as observed with a systemic delivery, could be circumvented1,2. Moreover, we combine this technique with in vivo transfection of nucleic acid with the help of polyethylenimine (PEI) reagent3, which provides tremendous versatility for studying spinal functions via delivery of pharmacological agents as well as gene, RNA, and protein modulators.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, spinal cord, intrathecal, in vivo transfection, siRNA, mouse
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A Murine Model of Cervical Spinal Cord Injury to Study Post-lesional Respiratory Neuroplasticity
Authors: Emilie Keomani, Thérèse B. Deramaudt, Michel Petitjean, Marcel Bonay, Frédéric Lofaso, Stéphane Vinit.
Institutions: Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Hôpital Ambroise Paré, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
A cervical spinal cord injury induces permanent paralysis, and often leads to respiratory distress. To date, no efficient therapeutics have been developed to improve/ameliorate the respiratory failure following high cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). Here we propose a murine pre-clinical model of high SCI at the cervical 2 (C2) metameric level to study diverse post-lesional respiratory neuroplasticity. The technique consists of a surgical partial injury at the C2 level, which will induce a hemiparalysis of the diaphragm due to a deafferentation of the phrenic motoneurons from the respiratory centers located in the brainstem. The contralateral side of the injury remains intact and allows the animal recovery. Unlike other SCIs which affect the locomotor function (at the thoracic and lumbar level), the respiratory function does not require animal motivation and the quantification of the deficit/recovery can be easily performed (diaphragm and phrenic nerve recordings, whole body ventilation). This pre-clinical C2 SCI model is a powerful, useful, and reliable pre-clinical model to study various respiratory and non-respiratory neuroplasticity events at different levels (molecular to physiology) and to test diverse putative therapeutic strategies which might improve the respiration in SCI patients.
Physiology, Issue 87, rat, cervical spinal cord injury, respiratory deficit, crossed phrenic phenomenon, respiratory neuroplasticity
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Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Authors: Alison X. Xie, Kelli Lauderdale, Thomas Murphy, Timothy L. Myers, Todd A. Fiacco.
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ and in vivo express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+ indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+ events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
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Cortical Source Analysis of High-Density EEG Recordings in Children
Authors: Joe Bathelt, Helen O'Reilly, Michelle de Haan.
Institutions: UCL Institute of Child Health, University College London.
EEG is traditionally described as a neuroimaging technique with high temporal and low spatial resolution. Recent advances in biophysical modelling and signal processing make it possible to exploit information from other imaging modalities like structural MRI that provide high spatial resolution to overcome this constraint1. This is especially useful for investigations that require high resolution in the temporal as well as spatial domain. In addition, due to the easy application and low cost of EEG recordings, EEG is often the method of choice when working with populations, such as young children, that do not tolerate functional MRI scans well. However, in order to investigate which neural substrates are involved, anatomical information from structural MRI is still needed. Most EEG analysis packages work with standard head models that are based on adult anatomy. The accuracy of these models when used for children is limited2, because the composition and spatial configuration of head tissues changes dramatically over development3.  In the present paper, we provide an overview of our recent work in utilizing head models based on individual structural MRI scans or age specific head models to reconstruct the cortical generators of high density EEG. This article describes how EEG recordings are acquired, processed, and analyzed with pediatric populations at the London Baby Lab, including laboratory setup, task design, EEG preprocessing, MRI processing, and EEG channel level and source analysis. 
Behavior, Issue 88, EEG, electroencephalogram, development, source analysis, pediatric, minimum-norm estimation, cognitive neuroscience, event-related potentials 
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Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Authors: F. Aura Kullmann, Stephanie L. Daugherty, William C. de Groat, Lori A. Birder.
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e. smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions. The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release. The in vitro smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
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Acute Dissociation of Lamprey Reticulospinal Axons to Enable Recording from the Release Face Membrane of Individual Functional Presynaptic Terminals
Authors: Shankar Ramachandran, Simon Alford.
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Synaptic transmission is an extremely rapid process. Action potential driven influx of Ca2+ into the presynaptic terminal, through voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) located in the release face membrane, is the trigger for vesicle fusion and neurotransmitter release. Crucial to the rapidity of synaptic transmission is the spatial and temporal synchrony between the arrival of the action potential, VGCCs and the neurotransmitter release machinery. The ability to directly record Ca2+ currents from the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals is imperative for a precise understanding of the relationship between presynaptic Ca2+ and neurotransmitter release. Access to the presynaptic release face membrane for electrophysiological recording is not available in most preparations and presynaptic Ca2+ entry has been characterized using imaging techniques and macroscopic current measurements – techniques that do not have sufficient temporal resolution to visualize Ca2+ entry. The characterization of VGCCs directly at single presynaptic terminals has not been possible in central synapses and has thus far been successfully achieved only in the calyx-type synapse of the chick ciliary ganglion and in rat calyces. We have successfully addressed this problem in the giant reticulospinal synapse of the lamprey spinal cord by developing an acutely dissociated preparation of the spinal cord that yields isolated reticulospinal axons with functional presynaptic terminals devoid of postsynaptic structures. We can fluorescently label and identify individual presynaptic terminals and target them for recording. Using this preparation, we have characterized VGCCs directly at the release face of individual presynaptic terminals using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology approaches. Ca2+ currents have been recorded directly at the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals, the first such recording to be carried out at central synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, reticulospinal synapse, reticulospinal axons, presynaptic terminal, presynaptic calcium, voltage-gated calcium channels, vesicle fusion, synaptic transmission, neurotransmitter release, spinal cord, lamprey, synaptic vesicles, acute dissociation
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Reconstitution of a Kv Channel into Lipid Membranes for Structural and Functional Studies
Authors: Sungsoo Lee, Hui Zheng, Liang Shi, Qiu-Xing Jiang.
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
To study the lipid-protein interaction in a reductionistic fashion, it is necessary to incorporate the membrane proteins into membranes of well-defined lipid composition. We are studying the lipid-dependent gating effects in a prototype voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, and have worked out detailed procedures to reconstitute the channels into different membrane systems. Our reconstitution procedures take consideration of both detergent-induced fusion of vesicles and the fusion of protein/detergent micelles with the lipid/detergent mixed micelles as well as the importance of reaching an equilibrium distribution of lipids among the protein/detergent/lipid and the detergent/lipid mixed micelles. Our data suggested that the insertion of the channels in the lipid vesicles is relatively random in orientations, and the reconstitution efficiency is so high that no detectable protein aggregates were seen in fractionation experiments. We have utilized the reconstituted channels to determine the conformational states of the channels in different lipids, record electrical activities of a small number of channels incorporated in planar lipid bilayers, screen for conformation-specific ligands from a phage-displayed peptide library, and support the growth of 2D crystals of the channels in membranes. The reconstitution procedures described here may be adapted for studying other membrane proteins in lipid bilayers, especially for the investigation of the lipid effects on the eukaryotic voltage-gated ion channels.
Molecular Biology, Issue 77, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Membrane Lipids, Phospholipids, Carrier Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Micelles, Molecular Motor Proteins, life sciences, biochemistry, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, lipid-protein interaction, channel reconstitution, lipid-dependent gating, voltage-gated ion channel, conformation-specific ligands, lipids
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Isolation, Culture, and Functional Characterization of Adult Mouse Cardiomyoctyes
Authors: Evan Lee Graham, Cristina Balla, Hannabeth Franchino, Yonathan Melman, Federica del Monte, Saumya Das.
Institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Sapienza University.
The use of primary cardiomyocytes (CMs) in culture has provided a powerful complement to murine models of heart disease in advancing our understanding of heart disease. In particular, the ability to study ion homeostasis, ion channel function, cellular excitability and excitation-contraction coupling and their alterations in diseased conditions and by disease-causing mutations have led to significant insights into cardiac diseases. Furthermore, the lack of an adequate immortalized cell line to mimic adult CMs, and the limitations of neonatal CMs (which lack many of the structural and functional biomechanics characteristic of adult CMs) in culture have hampered our understanding of the complex interplay between signaling pathways, ion channels and contractile properties in the adult heart strengthening the importance of studying adult isolated cardiomyocytes. Here, we present methods for the isolation, culture, manipulation of gene expression by adenoviral-expressed proteins, and subsequent functional analysis of cardiomyocytes from the adult mouse. The use of these techniques will help to develop mechanistic insight into signaling pathways that regulate cellular excitability, Ca2+ dynamics and contractility and provide a much more physiologically relevant characterization of cardiovascular disease.
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Medicine, Cardiology, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Mice, Ion Channels, Primary Cell Culture, Cardiac Electrophysiology, adult mouse cardiomyocytes, cell isolation, IonOptix, Cell Culture, adenoviral transfection, patch clamp, fluorescent nanosensor
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Optimized Transfection Strategy for Expression and Electrophysiological Recording of Recombinant Voltage-Gated Ion Channels in HEK-293T Cells
Authors: Adriano Senatore, Adrienne N. Boone, J. David Spafford.
Institutions: University of Waterloo.
The in vitro expression and electrophysiological recording of recombinant voltage-gated ion channels in cultured human embryonic kidney cells (HEK-293T) is a ubiquitous research strategy. HEK-293T cells must be plated onto glass coverslips at low enough density so that they are not in contact with each other in order to allow for electrophysiological recording without confounding effects due to contact with adjacent cells. Transfected channels must also express with high efficiency at the plasma membrane for whole-cell patch clamp recording of detectable currents above noise levels. Heterologous ion channels often require long incubation periods at 28°C after transfection in order to achieve adequate membrane expression, but there are increasing losses of cell-coverslip adhesion and membrane stability at this temperature. To circumvent this problem, we developed an optimized strategy to transfect and plate HEK-293T cells. This method requires that cells be transfected at a relatively high confluency, and incubated at 28°C for varying incubation periods post-transfection to allow for adequate ion channel protein expression. Transfected cells are then plated onto glass coverslips and incubated at 37°C for several hours, which allows for rigid cell attachment to the coverslips and membrane restabilization. Cells can be recorded shortly after plating, or can be transferred to 28°C for further incubation. We find that the initial incubation at 28°C, after transfection but before plating, is key for the efficient expression of heterologous ion channels that normally do not express well at the plasma membrane. Positively transfected, cultured cells are identified by co-expressed eGFP or eGFP expressed from a bicistronic vector (e.g. pIRES2-EGFP) containing the recombinant ion channel cDNA just upstream of an internal ribosome entry site and an eGFP coding sequence. Whole-cell patch clamp recording requires specialized equipment, plus the crafting of polished recording electrodes and L-shaped ground electrodes from borosilicate glass. Drug delivery to study the pharmacology of ion channels can be achieved by directly micropipetting drugs into the recording dish, or by using microperfusion or gravity flow systems that produce uninterrupted streams of drug solution over recorded cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, brain, invertebrate, calcium channel, electrophysiology, voltage-gated
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Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Authors: Brittany Baierlein, Alison L. Thurow, Harold L. Atwood, Robin L. Cooper.
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+ on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
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Recapitulation of an Ion Channel IV Curve Using Frequency Components
Authors: John R. Rigby, Steven Poelzing.
Institutions: University of Utah.
INTRODUCTION: Presently, there are no established methods to measure multiple ion channel types simultaneously and decompose the measured current into portions attributable to each channel type. This study demonstrates how impedance spectroscopy may be used to identify specific frequencies that highly correlate with the steady state current amplitude measured during voltage clamp experiments. The method involves inserting a noise function containing specific frequencies into the voltage step protocol. In the work presented, a model cell is used to demonstrate that no high correlations are introduced by the voltage clamp circuitry, and also that the noise function itself does not introduce any high correlations when no ion channels are present. This validation is necessary before the technique can be applied to preparations containing ion channels. The purpose of the protocol presented is to demonstrate how to characterize the frequency response of a single ion channel type to a noise function. Once specific frequencies have been identified in an individual channel type, they can be used to reproduce the steady state current voltage (IV) curve. Frequencies that highly correlate with one channel type and minimally correlate with other channel types may then be used to estimate the current contribution of multiple channel types measured simultaneously. METHODS: Voltage clamp measurements were performed on a model cell using a standard voltage step protocol (-150 to +50 mV, 5mV steps). Noise functions containing equal magnitudes of 1-15 kHz frequencies (zero to peak amplitudes: 50 or 100mV) were inserted into each voltage step. The real component of the Fast Fourier transform (FFT) of the output signal was calculated with and without noise for each step potential. The magnitude of each frequency as a function of voltage step was correlated with the current amplitude at the corresponding voltages. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: In the absence of noise (control), magnitudes of all frequencies except the DC component correlated poorly (|R|<0.5) with the IV curve, whereas the DC component had a correlation coefficient greater than 0.999 in all measurements. The quality of correlation between individual frequencies and the IV curve did not change when a noise function was added to the voltage step protocol. Likewise, increasing the amplitude of the noise function also did not increase the correlation. Control measurements demonstrate that the voltage clamp circuitry by itself does not cause any frequencies above 0 Hz to highly correlate with the steady-state IV curve. Likewise, measurements in the presence of the noise function demonstrate that the noise function does not cause any frequencies above 0 Hz to correlate with the steady-state IV curve when no ion channels are present. Based on this verification, the method can now be applied to preparations containing a single ion channel type with the intent of identifying frequencies whose amplitudes correlate specifically with that channel type.
Biophysics, Issue 48, Ion channel, Kir2.1, impedance spectroscopy, frequency response, voltage clamp, electrophysiology
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Lectin-based Isolation and Culture of Mouse Embryonic Motoneurons
Authors: Rebecca Conrad, Sibylle Jablonka, Teresa Sczepan, Michael Sendtner, Stefan Wiese, Alice Klausmeyer.
Institutions: Ruhr-University Bochum, University of Wuerzburg.
Spinal motoneurons develop towards postmitotic stages through early embryonic nervous system development and subsequently grow out dendrites and axons. Neuroepithelial cells of the neural tube that express Nkx6.1 are the unique precursor cells for spinal motoneurons1. Though postmitotic motoneurons move towards their final position and organize themselves into columns along the spinal tract2,3. More than 90% of all these differentiated and positioned motoneurons express the transcription factors Islet 1/2. They innervate the muscles of the limbs as well as those of the body and the inner organs. Among others, motoneurons typically express the high affinity receptors for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), the tropomyosin-related kinase B and C (TrkB, TrkC). They do not express the tropomyosin-related kinase A (TrkA)4. Beside the two high affinity receptors, motoneurons do express the low affinity neurotrophin receptor p75NTR. The p75NTR can bind all neurotrophins with similar but lower affinity to all neurotrophins than the high affinity receptors would bind the mature neurotrophins. Within the embryonic spinal cord, the p75NTR is exclusively expressed by the spinal motoneurons5. This has been used to develop motoneuron isolation techniques to purify the cells from the vast majority of surrounding cells6. Isolating motoneurons with the help of specific antibodies (panning) against the extracellular domains of p75NTR has turned out to be an expensive method as the amount of antibody used for a single experiment is high due to the size of the plate used for panning. A much more economical alternative is the use of lectin. Lectin has been shown to specifically bind to p75NTR as well7. The following method describes an alternative technique using wheat germ agglutinin for a preplating procedure instead of the p75NTR antibody. The lectin is an extremely inexpensive alternative to the p75NTR antibody and the purification grades using lectin are comparable to that of the p75NTR antibody. Motoneurons from the embryonic spinal cord can be isolated by this method, survive and grow out neurites.
Neuroscience, Issue 55, p75NTR, spinal cord, lectin, axon, dendrite
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Measuring Fast Calcium Fluxes in Cardiomyocytes
Authors: Urszula Golebiewska, Suzanne Scarlata.
Institutions: Queensborough Community College, Stony Brook University.
Cardiomyocytes have multiple Ca2+ fluxes of varying duration that work together to optimize function 1,2. Changes in Ca2+ activity in response to extracellular agents is predominantly regulated by the phospholipase Cβ- Gαq pathway localized on the plasma membrane which is stimulated by agents such as acetylcholine 3,4. We have recently found that plasma membrane protein domains called caveolae5,6 can entrap activated Gαq 7. This entrapment has the effect of stabilizing the activated state of Gαq and resulting in prolonged Ca2+ signals in cardiomyocytes and other cell types8. We uncovered this surprising result by measuring dynamic calcium responses on a fast scale in living cardiomyocytes. Briefly, cells are loaded with a fluorescent Ca2+ indicator. In our studies, we used Ca2+ Green (Invitrogen, Inc.) which exhibits an increase in fluorescence emission intensity upon binding of calcium ions. The fluorescence intensity is then recorded for using a line-scan mode of a laser scanning confocal microscope. This method allows rapid acquisition of the time course of fluorescence intensity in pixels along a selected line, producing several hundreds of time traces on the microsecond time scale. These very fast traces are transferred into excel and then into Sigmaplot for analysis, and are compared to traces obtained for electronic noise, free dye, and other controls. To dissect Ca2+ responses of different flux rates, we performed a histogram analysis that binned pixel intensities with time. Binning allows us to group over 500 traces of scans and visualize the compiled results spatially and temporally on a single plot. Thus, the slow Ca2+ waves that are difficult to discern when the scans are overlaid due to different peak placement and noise, can be readily seen in the binned histograms. Very fast fluxes in the time scale of the measurement show a narrow distribution of intensities in the very short time bins whereas longer Ca2+ waves show binned data with a broad distribution over longer time bins. These different time distributions allow us to dissect the timing of Ca2+fluxes in the cells, and to determine their impact on various cellular events.
Cellular Biology, Issue 57, Calcium fluxes, laser scanning microscopy, cardiomyocytes, fluorescent indicators
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Retrograde Loading of Nerves, Tracts, and Spinal Roots with Fluorescent Dyes
Authors: Dvir Blivis, Michael J. O'Donovan.
Institutions: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health.
Retrograde labeling of neurons is a standard anatomical method1,2 that has also been used to load calcium and voltage-sensitive dyes into neurons3-6. Generally, the dyes are applied as solid crystals or by local pressure injection using glass pipettes. However, this can result in dilution of the dye and reduced labeling intensity, particularly when several hours are required for dye diffusion. Here we demonstrate a simple and low-cost technique for introducing fluorescent and ion-sensitive dyes into neurons using a polyethylene suction pipette filled with the dye solution. This method offers a reliable way for maintaining a high concentration of the dye in contact with axons throughout the loading procedure.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Retrograde labeling, Fluorescent dyes, Spinal cord, Nerves, Spinal tracts, Optical imaging, Electrophysiology, Calcium-sensitive dyes
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Extracellularly Identifying Motor Neurons for a Muscle Motor Pool in Aplysia californica
Authors: Hui Lu, Jeffrey M. McManus, Hillel J. Chiel.
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University .
In animals with large identified neurons (e.g. mollusks), analysis of motor pools is done using intracellular techniques1,2,3,4. Recently, we developed a technique to extracellularly stimulate and record individual neurons in Aplysia californica5. We now describe a protocol for using this technique to uniquely identify and characterize motor neurons within a motor pool. This extracellular technique has advantages. First, extracellular electrodes can stimulate and record neurons through the sheath5, so it does not need to be removed. Thus, neurons will be healthier in extracellular experiments than in intracellular ones. Second, if ganglia are rotated by appropriate pinning of the sheath, extracellular electrodes can access neurons on both sides of the ganglion, which makes it easier and more efficient to identify multiple neurons in the same preparation. Third, extracellular electrodes do not need to penetrate cells, and thus can be easily moved back and forth among neurons, causing less damage to them. This is especially useful when one tries to record multiple neurons during repeating motor patterns that may only persist for minutes. Fourth, extracellular electrodes are more flexible than intracellular ones during muscle movements. Intracellular electrodes may pull out and damage neurons during muscle contractions. In contrast, since extracellular electrodes are gently pressed onto the sheath above neurons, they usually stay above the same neuron during muscle contractions, and thus can be used in more intact preparations. To uniquely identify motor neurons for a motor pool (in particular, the I1/I3 muscle in Aplysia) using extracellular electrodes, one can use features that do not require intracellular measurements as criteria: soma size and location, axonal projection, and muscle innervation4,6,7. For the particular motor pool used to illustrate the technique, we recorded from buccal nerves 2 and 3 to measure axonal projections, and measured the contraction forces of the I1/I3 muscle to determine the pattern of muscle innervation for the individual motor neurons. We demonstrate the complete process of first identifying motor neurons using muscle innervation, then characterizing their timing during motor patterns, creating a simplified diagnostic method for rapid identification. The simplified and more rapid diagnostic method is superior for more intact preparations, e.g. in the suspended buccal mass preparation8 or in vivo9. This process can also be applied in other motor pools10,11,12 in Aplysia or in other animal systems2,3,13,14.
Neuroscience, Issue 73, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Behavior, Neurobiology, Animal, Neurosciences, Neurophysiology, Electrophysiology, Aplysia, Aplysia californica, California sea slug, invertebrate, feeding, buccal mass, ganglia, motor neurons, neurons, extracellular stimulation and recordings, extracellular electrodes, animal model
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Spinal Cord Electrophysiology
Authors: Allyn Meyer, Benjamin W. Gallarda, Samuel Pfaff, William Alaynick.
Institutions: Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gene Expression Laboratory, University of California San Diego - UCSD.
The neonatal mouse spinal cord is a model for studying the development of neural circuitries and locomotor movement. We demonstrate the spinal cord dissection and preparation of recording bath artificial cerebrospinal fluid used for locomotor studies. Once dissected, the spinal cord ventral nerve roots can be attached to a recording electrode to record the electrophysiologic signals of the central pattern generating circuitry within the lumbar cord.
Neuroscience, Issue 35, Electrophysiology, central pattern generator, spinal cord, artificial cerebrospinal fluid
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Preparation of Artificial Bilayers for Electrophysiology Experiments
Authors: Ruchi Kapoor, Jung H. Kim, Helgi Ingolfson, Olaf Sparre Andersen.
Institutions: Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
Planar lipid bilayers, also called artificial lipid bilayers, allow you to study ion-conducting channels in a well-defined environment. These bilayers can be used for many different studies, such as the characterization of membrane-active peptides, the reconstitution of ion channels or investigations on how changes in lipid bilayer properties alter the function of bilayer-spanning channels. Here, we show how to form a planar bilayer and how to isolate small patches from the bilayer, and in a second video will also demonstrate a procedure for using gramicidin channels to determine changes in lipid bilayer elastic properties. We also demonstrate the individual steps needed to prepare the bilayer chamber, the electrodes and how to test that the bilayer is suitable for single-channel measurements.
Cellular Biology, Issue 20, Springer Protocols, Artificial Bilayers, Bilayer Patch Experiments, Lipid Bilayers, Bilayer Punch Electrodes, Electrophysiology
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