Primary Cell Culture of Purified GABAergic or Glutamatergic Neurons Established Through Fluorescence-activated Cell Sorting

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The overall goal of this protocol is to generate purified neuronal cultures derived from either GABAergic or glutamatergic neurons. Purified neurons can be cultured in defined media for 16 days in vitro and are amenable to any analyses typically performed on dissociated cultures, including electrophysiological, morphological and survival analyses. The major advantage of these cultures is that specific cell types can be selectively studied in the absence of complex external influences, such as those arising from glial cells or other neuron types. When planning experiments with purified cells, however, it is important to note that neurons strongly depend on glia-conditioned media for their growth and survival. In addition, glutamatergic neurons further depend on glia-secreted factors for the establishment of synaptic transmission. We therefore also describe a method for co-culturing neurons and glial cells in a non-contact arrangement. Using these methods, we have identified major differences between the development of GABAergic and glutamatergic neuronal networks. Thus, studying cultures of purified neurons has great potential for furthering our understanding of how the nervous system develops and functions. Moreover, purified cultures may be useful for investigating the direct action of pharmacological agents, growth factors or for exploring the consequences of genetic manipulations on specific cell types. As more and more transgenic animals become available, labeling additional specific cell types of interest, we expect that the protocols described here will grow in their applicability and potential.