|Title of Invention||
"METHOD FOR MEASUREMENTS ON CELLS OR SIMILAR STRUCTURES AND AN APPARATUS FOR THE SAME"
|Abstract||METHOD FOR MEASUREMENTS ON CELLS OR SIMILAR STRUCTURES WITH THE PATHCH-CLAMP TECHNIQUE WHEREIN AT LEAST ONE CELL IS INTRODUCED INTO THE INNER LUMEN OF A CPILLARY THAT ALONGT THE LENGTH OF THE CAPILLARY AT LEAST AT ONE POSITION HAS A SMALLE INNER DIAMETER THA THE OUTER DIAMETER OF SAID CELL, WHEREIN THE CAPILARY HAS A VERY XCLEAN INNER SURFACE AT LEAST IN THE PART WIOTH THE SMALLER INNER DIAMETER AND WHEREIN SAID SMALLER4 INNER DIAMETER IS BVELOW 10UM, SAIDCEK IS POSITIOED INSIDE SAID CAPILLARY AT SAID SITE FORMING A GIG-SEAL BETWEEN CELL MEMBERANE AND INNER SURFACE OF SAID CAPILARY WITH AN ELECTRIC RESISTANCE OF AT LEAST 10GIGAOHM, AND A PACH-CLAMP EXPEIMENT IS SUBSEQUENTLY PEERFORMED ON SAID CELL.|
|Full Text||Method and apparatus for pacth clamp masurments on cells
The invention relates to a method for measurements on cells or similar
structures with the patch-clamp technique and an apparatus for these
Living cells create an inner microenvironment by surrounding
themselves with a lipid membrane thereby securing the function of
cellular mechanisms. These lipid membranes are practically
impermeable to charged particles. Therefore specialized embedded
transport proteins carry ions across the membrane. They represent the
basis for a variety of physiological functions including electric excitability
of cells, transport of substances across membranes or cell layers and
several electrical and chemical signals in cells.
Cell biology research has been revolutionized by the patch-clamp
method developed by Sakmann and Neher 1981. The patch-clamp
technique permits the direct measurement of currents through ion
transporters with high time resolution. In fact this method is the only
technique that can measure conformational changes of single
specialized protein molecules in real time at a time resolution of a few
milliseconds. This allows for example to assess the action of signal
molecules or pharmacological agents directly on the target protein.
Furthermore, the technique allows to exactly control the electrical and
chemical environment of a membrane and the application of signaling
molecules, drugs etc. to both sides of the membrane.
This technique can examine a variety of transport proteins including
electrogenic ion transporters of organic and anorganic ions, selective
and nonselective ion channels and other pore-inducing membrane
proteins. Among the ion channels are voltage-gated, ligand-gated and
store-operated channels, that are or are not selective for Na+, K+, Ca2+
and CI". Even charge movements inside a membrane-associated protein
can be measured (gating charges). This makes all membrane
associated proteins accessible to the technique including receptors,
enzymes, and their interaction with other proteins or charged molecules.
Ion channels are distributed throughout tissues in a specific manner and
are characterized by a great diversity of function. They are therefore
ideal targets for pharmacological compounds to manipulate tissue-
specific functions. Examples for such compounds are diuretics,
antidiabetics, antiepileptics, local anesthetics, antiarrhytmics, some
antibiotics etc. The patch-clamp technique represents an extremely
sensitive method to assay the biological action of such compounds. The
major disadvantage of the method is the complicated experimental
procedure, the required manual manipulation and the resulting low
throughput of test compounds and transport proteins.
The patch-clamp techniques exists in several different modes. All these
modes require micromanipulation. Under microscopic visual control a
cell is mechanically approached with a glass micropipette and attached
to the pipette by suction. This leads to a electrically tight bond between
cellular membrane and pipette tip, a prerequisite for low-noise high-
resolution recording of tiny currents. With different modes of the
technique currents either through the membrane patch in the pipette tip
or through the opposed membrane layer are recorded.
The tight bond between cellular membrane and glass capillary is often
referred to as "seal". Different seal qualities allow the experimental study
of different cell types and ionic current magnitudes. In 1980 Neher and
Sakman described a method to achieve a novel quality of seals, namely
so-called gigaseals. This discovery was awarded the Nobel prize in 1991
and the gigaseals allowed for the first time the precise measurement of
ionic currents in the picoampere range in small mammalian, human,
insect and other cells. In the 1981 publication the group of Neher and
"The extracellular patch clamp technique has allowed, for the first time,
the currents in single ionic channels to be observed (Neher and
Sakmann, 1976). In this technique a small heat polished glass pipette is
pressed against the cell membrane, forming an electrical seal with a
resistance of the order of 50 MegaOhm (Neher et al., 1978). The high
resistance of this seal ensures that most of the currents originating in a
small patch of membrane flow into the pipette, and from there into
current-measurement circuitry. The resistance of the seal is important
also because it determines the level of background noise in the
Recently it was observed that tight pipette-membrane seals, with
resistances of 10-1000 GOhm, can be obtained when precautions are
taken to keep the pipette surface clean, and when suction is applied to
the pipette interior (Neher 1981). We call these seals "giga-seals" to
distinguish them from the conventional, megaohm seals. ...
Gigaseals are also mechanically stable. ...
the membrane patch can be disrupted keeping the pipette cell-attached.
This provides a direct low resistance access to the cell interior which
allows potential recording and voltage clamping of small cells " (Hamill,
Marty, Neher, Sakmann, Sigworth, Pflugers Arch. 391:85-100, 1981).
A "gigaseal" is obtained when the electric resistance after approaching
the cell with the pipette tip and suction reaches the Gigaohm range. The
usual resistance of several 10 GigaOhm indicates that even small ions
like protons are unable to pass between membrane and glass surface. It
was previously assumed that such gigaseal has to form between the
membrane and the rim of the pipette tip that is approached to the
membrane by mechanic force and hydraulic suction. With this gigaseal
modern operational amplifiers allow measurements of directed currents
in the range down to 100 fA (10-13 A). In any case the currents measured
represent the sum of ion transport across the membrane plus leak
currents through the apparatus and preparation.
The patch-clamp technique is extremely slow and requires highly
qualified personnel especially because of the required
micromanipulations. Approaching single cells on a microscope stage
with the micromanipulator and applying suction to seal the pipette
requires a high level of dexterity and experience with mechanical
properties of a given cell and its micromanipulation. E.g. the mechanical
force applied before suction is critical for the bonding of membrane and
pipette tip. Furthermore, the seal is mechanically unstable and can be
lost by mechanical perturbation and hydraulic turbulence (e.g. solution
exchange). A microscope and micromanipulator are required. This
prohibits miniaturization and the principally desired arrangement of
arrays with multiple pipettes.
The description above explains that for a variety of potential applications
of the patch-clamp technique it would be desirable to examine several
cells simultaneously and to obtain gigaseals automatically. This is
hindered by the fact, that the tip of a micropipette must be brought into
close contact with the cell membrane mechanically. The DE-A1-197 44
649 describes an apparatus and a method to examine multiple cells with
an array of multiple pipettes. However, in this patent application the
same principle (as mentioned above) of mechanical movement of the
pipette array towards the cell membrane is used. The WO 99/66329
describes an array of pores in a thin planar substrate in order to apply
cells and examine multiple cells simultaneously. Manufacturing such
porous substrates is complicated and expensive and the adherence of
cells to multiple pores is arbitrary, difficult to achieve and to control.
Seals of cells with the surface of a planar substrate are mechanically
unstable and are easily lost by solution exchanges. Furthermore, in all
planar arrangements of pores like in the WO 99/66329 or in other
transepithelial measuring apparatuses known to a person skilled in the
art (e.g. Ussing chambers) the experiment is already disturbed if some
of the pores are not tightly sealed with cells. The leaky pores conduct
serious leak currents several orders of magnitude larger than the
currents through ion transporters to be measured. In such arrangements
serious problems arise with electrical crosstalk between pores,
especially from leaky pores. The large electric capacitance can cause
electrical noise and disturbances thereby reducing the time resolution of
the measurement. This is, particularly critical when measuring voltage-
gated ion channels.
US-Patent 6,048,722 (corresponding to WO 97/17426) describes a
cellular physiology workstation for automated data acquisition and
perfusion control. The apparatus holds a Xenopus Oocyte inside a
Pasteur pipette tip to form a seal between the oocyte membrane and
glass. The resistance of such seal will not exceed 100-200 MegaOhm.
Xenopus Oocytes are -in contrast to mammalian cells- rather large.
Their outer diameter reaches > 1 mm. Therefore they have a huge
membrane area and contain several orders of magnitude more ion
channels than other cells resulting in ionic currents in the range of
several hundred to 1000 nanoAmperes. Therefore, a so-called high
resistance seal (in the order of 10-200 MegaOhm) is sufficient to
measure large currents in Xenopus Oocytes. However, these cells are of
amphibian origin and therefore of limited use for the study of ion channel
function in mammalian and human cells. In mammalian cells that
typically have a diameter ranging from 5-50 micrometers the ionic
currents typically only reach one to several hundred picoamperes. In
order to measure such tiny currents, the resistance of the seal must be
several orders of magnitude higher than for Xenopus Oocytes, namely in
the range of 1-1000, preferably 10-1000 GigaOhm. As mentioned above,
a person skilled in the art did assume that the edge or rim of a glass
pipette must be pressed against the cell membrane in order to obtain
such a gigaseal. This is also evident from US-Patent 6,048,722 that
describes the additional, conventional use of biosensors including patch
clamp pipettes and injection needles inside the recording chamber. This
also requires additional micromanipulation with probes like electrodes,
needles and patch clamp pipettes inside the recording chamber for
holding of the Xenopus oocyte. These requirements lead to the same
disadvantages as mentioned above.
In summary, a person skilled in the art did previously assume that a
gigaseal has to form between the cell membrane and the rim of a pipette
tip that is approached to the membrane by mechanic force and hydraulic
As a consequence it is the object of the present invention to avoid the
disadvantages of the state of the art technique. It shall represent a novel
approach to achieve gigaseals between membrane and recording
chamber or holding substrate required for the patch-clamp technique. It
shall increase the mechanical stability of those seals. The need for
visual microscopic control shall be eliminated. The invention shall
achieve a small electric capacitance of the recording preparation,
resulting in small dielectric fluctuations (noise) and a high time resolution
of the measured signal. It shall allow measurements in multiple cells
simultaneously and/or in rapid order with the patch clamp technique. The
apparatus shall be easily automated and assembled using simple or
already existing parts. The apparatus shall be miniaturized in order to
arrange multiple recording preparations in parallel and integrate the
apparatus into existing laboratory robot systems. The apparatus shall
arrange multiple recording preparations independently in a way that
recording chambers are arranged in a flexible array and chambers
containing cells prepared for recording can be easily replaced and
moved in said array. Multiple recording preparations shall be electrically
shieldable from each other.
The present invention at least partly solves the problems described
above with the method as claimed in claim 1 and the apparatus as
claimed in claim 12. Preferred embodiments of the method and/or the
apparatus are described in claims 2-11 and 13-22. Claims 23-25 show
use of a capillary, a capillary and kit. The wording of all claims is made
part of the description by reference.
The present invention provides a method where a cell is positioned in
the lumen of a capillary and a sufficiently tight seal with a resistance
exceeding 1 GigaOhm, preferably 10 GigaOhm is obtained between the
cell membrane and the inner wall of the capillary. After achievement of
the gigaseal a patch clamp experiment can be performed. The capillary
is tapered in a way that it has along the length of the capillary at least at
one site a smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of the cell to be
Taper means a form of the capillary that allows holding a cell that is
moved along the length of the capillary and avoids the passage of that
cell. Taper can also mean a conical form of the capillary inner wall that
encloses that cell circumferentially and allows for a close contact
between the inner surface of the capillary and the cell surface. Therefore
capillaries will be constructed with a preferentially round inner cross
section that narrows along its length to a taper or nozzle in order to hold
and position the cell and reach a tight seal between the cell surface and
the inner surface of the tapered pipette. Obviously the inner diameter,
form and steepness of the taper can be varied to allow for different cell
diameters. By using very small inner diameters in the taper very small
cells or subcellular membrane structures can be positioned and held, for
example mitochondria, lysosomes or bacteria. These structures have so
far not been accessible directly with the patch-clamp method, since they
are usually too small for light microscopy and micromechanic
manipulations. Therefore the term "cell" in the present invention includes
any biological or artificial structure surrounded by a lipid membrane.
In the present invention the term "positioning" describes any fixation of
the cell in the taper or the capillary sufficient for patch-clamp
experiments where a sufficiently tight bond or seal with a resistance
exceeding 1, preferably 10 GigaOhm is achieved between cell
membrane and inner surface of the capillary wall.
It was surprising that a gigaseal - as required for measurements of ionic
currents in small cells (e.g. mammalian cells, human, plant, insect cells)-
can be obtained between the inner surface of a capillary lumen, and a
cell membrane and that a patch clamp experiment can be performed on
such cells after permeabilizing one side of the cell membrane and that
additional probes like patch-clamp pipettes or injection needles are
unnecessary to perform such experiments. With the invention the mere
positioning of the cell in the narrow part of the capillary is sufficient and
no additional devices like needles, patch-clamp pipettes or
micromanipulators are required for obtaining a gigaseal. Further, the
gigaseals obtained according to the invention are mechanically stable
and can resist hydraulic and mechanical perturbations. It is routinely
possible to remove the capillaries containing sealed cells from the holder
of the capillary and move it to another holder without losing the gigaseal.
Gigaseals are also resistant to mechanical vibrations, e.g. tapping
against the capillary. Liquid can be flushed into the capillary using a
narrow tube without breaking the seal.
The length of the capillary is not critical for the present invention.
Capillaries of entirely different length can be used. In a preferred
embodiment the capillary is at least as long that the cell is positioned
entirely inside the capillary.
The above description shows that the narrow part or taper of the
capillary can be realized in different ways. In a simple, preferred
embodiment the entire capillary is tapered so that the inner diameter
decreases gradually or stepwise along the length of the capillary. In this
embodiment the cell will be positioned where the inner crossection
diameter of the capillary taper approaches the outer cell diameter. In
another preferred embodiment the narrowest crossection will be located
at one end of the capillary, and the cell will be introduced into the
capillary from the other end, so that the cell will be positioned and sealed
inside the capillary close to the narrow opening.
In another preferred embodiment the taper will be located at one end,
and the cell will be introduced into the capillary from the other end, so
that the cell will be positioned and sealed in the narrow opening and part
of the cell protrudes from that opening. This allows a rapid exchange of
solutions at the protruding part of the membrane.
In a preferred embodiment the tapered capillaries can be so-called
micropipettes similar to the various forms of micropipettes used for
conventional patch-clamp experiments. A person skilled in the art knows
how to fabricate and form such micropipettes. Typically micropipettes
are pulled from glass capillaries after (at least local) heating by
separation of both ends of the capillary in the melted middle section. The
melting guarantees the required clean surface of the pipette material in
order to obtain gigaseals.
In a preferred embodiment the capillaries or micropipettes can be made
from different non-conductive materials such as plastics (e.g.
polystyrene). In another preferred embodiment of the invention the
capillaries or micropipettes are made from glass. Glass has been shown
to seal tightly to biological membranes and has good dielectrical
properties. Glass is inert to a wide range of chemicals and can be easily
cleaned. Furthermore, glass capillaries and micropipettes can be
fabricated with a wide range of taper diameters at low cost with standard
glass forming technology. Irrespective of the material, in preferred
embodiments inner diameters of the taper/opening of the narrowest part
below 50 micrometer, especially below 10 micrometer (mm), depending
on the diameter of the examined biological structure or cell are used. A
preferred lower limit for such diameter is 50 nanometer (nm).
In a preferred embodiment of the invention cells are brought into and
positioned inside the capillary by filling or flushing the capillary with a
suspension of cells in solution. For example the cell suspension will be
filled into the large opening of a micropipette and suction will be applied
towards the narrow opening, leading to the positioning of a cell in the
taper of the pipette. The positioning is achieved simply by movement of
fluid and/or the cell. As soon as the first cell moves into the taper the
contact between cell surface and inner wall of the capillary seals the cell
to the capillary and blocks the liquid flow. Therefore no additional cells
are moved into the taper. The introduction of cells into the capillary and
the positioning of a cell in the taper is therefore achieved in a single
step. According to the invention it is preferred to apply pressure
gradients of 5 mbar (0.5 bar) to 1 bar, especially 5 mbar to 500 mbar.
Alternatively or additionally in another embodiment of the invention the
introduction and positioning of cells in the capillary can be achieved by
sedimentation. In this case, the capillary is fixed in an upright direction
and the cell is positioned by gravity, preferably in addition to the
hydraulic flow described above.
Alternatively or additionally in another embodiment of the invention the
introduction and positioning of cells in the capillary can be achieved by
centrifugation. In this case, a cell suspension is centrifuged into the
capillary and the cell is positioned by centrifugal force, preferably in
addition to the liquid flow described above. To obtain gigaseal with cells
preferably centrifugation at 2 to 20 g is performed.. For bacteria and
other small membrane structures below 1 micrometer diameter
centrifugation at 10 to 500 g is preferable.
Alternatively or additionally in another embodiment of the invention the
introduction and positioning of cells in the capillary can be achieved or
facilitated by mechanical vibration or by use of an electric field applied
longitudinally along the capillary. Another embodiment uses magnetic
beads coupled to or enclosed by the cells and positioning of said cell
using a magnetic field. Another embodiment uses laser light (optical
tweezers) in order to position the cell.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, at least the tapered part of
the capillary is first filled with a physiological solution (preferably cleaned
by passage through a sterile filter or by centrifugation). The cell
suspension is then layered on top of that solution. Subsequently, cells
pass through the clean solution layer towards the taper by means of
gravity, centrifugation etc. as described above. Since cells are in most
cases heavier than membrane fragments and other typical
contaminating particles in a cell suspension, this procedure allows the
cells to be "rinsed" while entering the tapered part of the capillary.
Furthermore, the probability of an intact cell to enter the narrow taper
before any other particle is increased. This effectively reduces the risk of
contamination of the inner surface of the pipette taper with particles that
would otherwise prevent the subsequent formation of a gigaseal.
In general, it is especially advantageous for preferred embodiements of
the invention that the inner surface of the capillary is extremely clean for
providing gigaseals, especially gigaseals with very high resistances. As
a consequence, it is preferred to produce the capillary, especially at
least the tapered/narrow part of such capillary with a very clean inner
surface. Further, it is preferred to keep such inner surface extremely
clean until the capillary is used for a patch-clamp experiment and even
during such patch-clamp experiment.
For producing gigaseals with cells inside capillaries according to the
invention it is preferred to fulfil at least one of the following 4 technical
requirements. Clearly, it is further preferred to fulfil all 4 technical
1. Melting, preferably complete melting of the capillary during
production of the taper/narrowing for guaranteeing submersion of
any dust particles or contaminants beyond the inner surface.
2. Avoidance of contamination of the inner surface by keeping the
capillary in an extremely clean environment after production, e.g.
by sealing it in a sterile containment under a flow of filtered air
(preferably 0.2 micrometer pore size).
3. Avoidance of contamination of the inner surface during the
experiment, e.g. by filling at least the taper with a sterile-filtered
solution, e.g. a physiological salt solution.
4. Avoidance of contamination of the inner surface during the
experiment stemming from contaminating particles in the cell
suspension by sedimentation and/or centrifugation of cells through
said layer of a sterile-filtered solution.
In preferred embodiments the following parameters are measured in
said positioned cell or membrane structure: current in voltage-clamp,
voltage in current-clamp, electric resistance, impedance, electric
capacity, optic fluorescence, plasmon resonance, mechanic resonance,
fluidity and/or rigidity.
In preferred embodiments the positioning of the cell can be verified
and/or controlled before performing a patch-clamp experiment. This can
be achieved by optical means, for example by analysis of laser light
illuminating the taper of the capillary. In this context said cell can be
stained with dyes, dye-coupled antibodies, ligands, lipids etc. The dye
can be chosen to indicate chemical variations inside the cell or at the cell
surface and thus yield biological information in addition to the position of
the cell in the capillary, for example chemical changes in the cytosol.
Preferably, the positioning of the cell is controlled and verified by
measuring pressure and/or flow through the capillary. Changes in
pressure and/or flow indicate positioning of a cell in the capillary taper.
Pressure and flow can be regulated, preferably automatically, in order to
achieve the desired positioning of a cell and the tight seal between
membrane and inner capillary surface. Further preferred, the electrical
resistance along the capillary is measured in order to assess the position
of the cell respective to the taper and to measure the quality of the seal.
The positioning forces can then be regulated in order to improve the
resistance of the seal. By this means hydraulic or centrifugation forces
can be controlled in order to achieve an optimal seal between the
membrane of different cell types and the inner capillary surface.
According to the invention a new capillary or micropipette can be used
for each patch-clamp experiment. This guarantees a new, extremely
clean surface for positioning and sealing a new cell. In another preferred
embodiment the capillary is reused after a patch clamp experiment. For
this purpose the cell is removed from the capillary by suction / flushing.
Subsequently the capillary is cleaned and prepared for another patch-
clamp experiment. Cleaning of the capillary is preferably done by
flushing with solvents or chemicals. Additionally or alternatively heat and
ultrasound can be used to clean the capillary inner surface.
It is obvious to a person skilled in the art that the claimed method can be
modified in several ways. For example, solution exchange can be
performed on both sides of the cell after sealing said cell to the inner
wall of the capillary. Solution exchange can be performed using tubes or
outlets for suction and/or flushing etc. Futhermore, the membrane can
be permeabilized selectively on one side of the seal. To achieve this,
pressure changes, ultrasound, electric voltage jumps or permeabilizing
chemicals (e.g. ionophors, tensides, enzymes, solvents) can be used.
They can be applied through said solution exchange devices. Selective
permeabilization of one membrane surface can render the inner side of
the other membrane surface accessible to substances applied to the
capillary and can reduce the electric resistance accessing the other
membrane surface. According to the invention for rupture of the
membrane no additional probes like needles nor mechanical movement
of such probes is required.
Obviously a variety of different cell types can be examined with the
present method. According to the invention it is preferred to use cells or
subcellular structures (as mentioned above) having diameters below 100
mm, preferably below 50 mm. Use of cells or structures with diameters
from 30 mm to 3 mm is further preferred.
To name a few, cells that can be examined include Jurkat lymphoma
cells, HEK293 cells, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, primary cells
from neuronal tissue like hippocampus, ganglion, neuroendocrine cells
etc.; skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, heart muscle, immune cells;
epithelia and endothelia etc. Furthermore, cells can be genetically
engineered. For example, ion transport proteins can be expressed in cell
lines, e.g. CHO cells. In a preferred embodiment genetic material like
DNA or RNA can be harvested from the capillary following the patch-
In another embodiment the presented method can be used to examine
artificial or natural lipid vesicles. Preferably ion transport proteins,
possibly genetically modified proteins, can be inserted into these
vesicles. Furthermore, subcellular membrane structures (e.g.
mitochondria, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, nuclei), plant cells and
prokaryotic cells (e.g. bacteria) can be examined, since in contrast to the
state of the art patch-clamp technique structures with diameters well
beyond 1 micrometer can be positioned and sealed.
In a preferred embodiment material is collected/harvested from the
positioned cell, possibly proteins, lipids, RNA, DNA, enzymes and other
The invention further comprises a new apparatus for patch-clamp
experiments on cells or other membrane structures preferably for
applying the method described above. This apparatus comprises at least
one capillary, at least one device for delivering a cell into said capillary
lumen and positioning of said cell inside the capillary and eventually
other usual devices required to perform a patch clamp measurement.
Said capillary is tapered in a way that along the length of the capillary at
least one site has a smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of the
cell to be measured. Furthermore the capillary is designed in a way that
a cell can be introduced into said capillary lumen and positioned in order
to obtain a gigaseal between the cellular membrane and the inner
surface of the capillary. The design of the apparatus and its advantages
relate directly to the method described above and the method"s
description is explicit part of the description of said apparatus.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention the apparatus contains
devices that allow flushing and draining the capillary lumen with at least
one solution or cell suspension. For this purpose liquid containers like
reservoirs, tubes for feeding and draining the capillary, pumps for
suspensions and solutions, pipettes, valves and pressure/flow gauges
can be implemented.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention the flushing/draining devices
are complemented or replaced by a device designed to centrifuge the
cells into the capillary.
The apparatus may contain devices to measure the electrical resistance
(e.g. electrodes preferably made from chloride-silver or carbon fibers
and cabling) or devices to analyze optical properties of the cell/capillary
system, preferably laser light sources, optical fibers, and light detectors.
Said devices can be used in order to control and adjust positioning of the
cell inside the capillary.
The advantages of the invention are most obvious in a preferred
embodiment of the invention, where multiple tapered capillaries,
preferably micropipettes, are used. The capillaries can be arranged
preferably in a regularly spaced array. In this way the patch-clamp
method can be automated, since cells sealed in capillaries can be
examined either simultaneously or in a rapid sequential order.
In the embodiments with multiple capillaries cells can be positioned
inside said capillaries in a first step. Since the positioned cells are
mechanically protected and firmly sealed, cell-containing capillaries can
be transferred in a second step into a measuring device. Furthermore,
cell-containing capillaries can be replaced if the sealing attempt or the
attempt to open the membrane fails. In this embodiment an array of
positioned, sealed and opened cells can be assembled.
In the embodiments with multiple capillaries such capillaries can be
easily electrically shielded from each other and from the environment. In
this context preferably grounded shields from metal or any other
conductive material can be used in closing the capillaries. Such shields
e.g. can be in the form of cylindrical tubes partly or completely enclosing
In the embodiments with multiple capillaries preferably multiple liquid
containers are used, preferably microwells, that hold suspensions or
solutions with cells and compounds. These containers can be wells in a
microtiter plate. Preferably the number and arrangement of containers
relates to the capillary array. This allows to transfer liquid from a defined
well into a corresponding capillary, for example using piston stroke
In the embodiments described the capillaries and the liquid containers
are preferably arranged or moved in a way, that suspensions or
solutions including cell suspensions can be easily transferred into the
capillary lumen. The figures and figure descriptions provide examples for
In a preferred embodiment at least one capillary in the apparatus is
tapered in a way that along the length of the capillary at least one site
has a smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of the cell to be
measured in order to apply the method described in the present
invention. The capillary is preferably made of glass and is preferably a
The described features and specifications as well as other features and
specifications result from the following experimental protocol and the
figure descriptions. Different features can be implemented in said
experimental protocol or figures alone or in combination.
is a sketch comparing the positioning of a cell using the regular patch-
clamp technique (A) and the invented method (B)
Sketch of an embodiment of the capillary according to the invention
Sketch of selective permeabilization of one side of the membrane,
Sketches of two other embodiments of capillaries containing cells in the
Sketch of an apparatus for automated patch-clamping comprising a
capillary with cell and additional devices.
Sketch of an array of multiple capillaries to perform automated
positioning by suction and automated patch-clamping
Sketch of an array of multiple capillaries to perform automated
positioning by centrifugation and automated patch-clamping
Current traces in response to voltage steps demonstrating increase of
resistance due to gigaseal formation during the positioning of a cell
inside a capillary
Microphotograph of a cell positioned inside the tip of a glass
Fig. 1 illustrates the differences between the invented method and the
state of the art regular patch-clamp technique. Fig. 1A shows attachment
(seal) of a cell to the tip of a micropipette with the conventional patch-
clamp method. The seal forms between the rim of the pipette opening
and the cell membrane. The arrow indicates the direction of suction/flow,
after pressing the pipette tip against the cell and applying vacuum to the
pipette interior. Fig. 1B shows positioning and sealing a cell with the
invented method. The arrows indicate the direction of flow and/or
movement of cells when suspended cells, in Fig. 1B for example three
cells, are moved towards the tip of the micropipette. Fig. 1 B further
shows a cell sealed to the inner wall of the tapered pipette. A patch-
clamp experiment can be performed on this cell. In contrast to the state
of the art the invented method does not require to move the micropipette
towards the cell. The cells are flushed into the pipette lumen and
positioned in the taper. This method is not only simple, but also
eliminates the need for a microscope to control positioning and a
micromanipulator to position the micropipette. This allows in any case to
miniaturize and automate the apparatus.
Fig. 2 shows a capillary and a cell positioned and sealed according to
the invented method. The capillary is constructed as a thin tube (outer
diameter 1.5 mm, inner diameter 1.2 mm) and in the example shown it
tapers down to a small opening (0.5 - 1 mm). In this taper a cell
(diameter ˜ 10 mm) is positioned and its membrane is sealed to the inner
surface of the taper preferably consisting of glass. The two small lines in
the opening of the taper symbolize permeabilization of the cell
membrane on the right side. In both sides of the capillary thin tubes for
flushing/draining solutions and suspensions are inserted (outer diameter
0.2 mm, inner diameter 0.1 mm). The arrows indicate direction of liquid
flow. These flushing/draining devices can be either used to fill cell
suspension into the capillary (left in- and outlet), or to drain cell
suspension, for example after an experiment (left in- and outlet).
Furthermore, the tubes can be used for cleaning of the capillary (left and
right in- and outlets) or for application of pharmacological substances,
membrane permeabilizing chemicals and other compounds (left and
right in- and outlets). In addition electrodes are inserted into the capillary
lumen (for example chlorided silver wire, outer diameter 0.2 mm) that
serve electrical measurements of current and/or voltage and injection of
current. The dimensions of the capillary, the taper and the in- and outlets
can be adjusted to the respective requirements, e.g. to the diameter of
cell types with different size.
Fig. 3 shows how the cell membrane can be permeabilized on both
sides of the circumferential seal. i.e., the cell membrane can be
rendered permeable either on the narrowing entry side of the taper or on
the exit side. The permeabilization is symbolized by double lines.
Corresponding information was given in the above description.
Fig. 4 shows two additional, alternative models of tapered capillaries
with a cell sealed in the narrow part, respectively. The left panel of Fig. 4
shows a taper, that folds backward exposing a round rim or edge at the
narrowest part of the capillary. The right panel shows a capillary with an
hour-glass-like shape, shown in Fig. 4 in the way that the taper is
symmetrically mirrored to both sides of the narrowest position. The
features described in Fig. 4 are herewith explicitly claimed as part of the
description of the invention.
Fig. 5 shows a sketch of an apparatus according to the invention. A
glass capillary 1 formed as a micropipette similar to the model shown in
Fig. 2 is shown. In the nozzle-like part of the tapered capillary 1 a cell is
positioned for experiments. In- and outlets 2 are inserted in both ends of
the capillary lumen at both sides of the cell. These in- and outlets are
connected to pumps and pressure/flow gauges 3 that serve to transfer
liquids between reservoirs 5 and capillary 1 and measure pressures
and/or flow rates. Electrodes 8 are inserted into both sides of the
capillary 1. These electrodes are represented by lines below the
in/outlets also in (Fig. 2.)
A laser light source 6 and a light detector 7 are shown in Fig. 5. They
serve to control positioning and fixation of the cell in capillary 1. All
respective elements are electronically connected to a controlling device
4 that contains a computer and records data, performs voltage and/or
current clamp (see below), analyzes data, and controls and regulates
Figs. 6 and 7 show an apparatus, where multiple capillaries are
assembled. The capillaries are arranged in a planar, regular array and
can be positioned by the apparatus above a respective array of multiple
reservoirs. These reservoirs can be microvessels in a microtiter plate
like shown in Fig. 6 and 7. The larger openings of the pipettes point
towards the microvessels and can be moved into those vessels. The
vessels can be filled with suspensions of cells. In the lower part of Fig. 6
the suspensions are sucked into the pipettes. In Fig. 7 suspended cells
are moved towards the pipette tips by centrifugation. For this purpose
the pipette array holder is mounted in a rotor. By rotation the centrifugal
force moves the cells towards the narrow part of the pipettes. The lower
part of Fig. 7 shows another microtiter plate. The vessels in this plate
can be filled with solutions of pharmacological substances. The cell-
holding pipette array can dip into the vessels in order to test
pharmacological compounds. Alternatively or additionally, substances or
solutions thereof can be transferred from vessels into cell-holding
micropipettes by liquid handling devices, for example pipetting robots.
Figs. 8 and 9 are discussed in the following description of an
Description of an experiment
Patch-clamp micropipettes with dimensions as described in Fig. 2 were
pulled from borosilicate glass (Clark Electromedical Instruments,
Reading, UK) using a microprocessor controlled puller (Zeitz
Instrumente, Augsburg, FRG). Pipette tips were fire polished in the puller
down to a tip resistance of 2-3 MegaOhm in an aqueous solution
containing 150 mM NaCI. To reduce electric capacitance some pipette
tips were coated on their outer surface with silicon rubber or paraffin.
Measurements were performed using an EPC9 patch-clamp amplifier
(HEKA, Lambrecht, FRG) for voltage clamp and data aquisition. The
data were digitized at 10 kHz and filtered at 2 kHz. Analysis was
performed using software from HEKA. "Voltage clamp" means a usual
technique for the control of electric parameters during a patch-clamp
measurement. A high-resistance feedback-circuitry injects exactly the
amount of current into the biological preparation so that the voltage
remains at the desired value. The analog circuitry features high time-
resolution and permits compensation of capacitive currents, series
resistance and leak currents that shall be distinguished from the ionic
currents flowing through the examined membrane structures.
The pipette was filled with a sterile-filtered modified Ringer solution
containing 145 mM NaCI, 5 mM KCI, 2 mM CaCI2, 1 mM MgCI2, 10 mM
glucose and 10 mM HEPES (pH 7,4). The pipette was electrically
connected to the pre-amplifier via a silverwire coated with AgCI. 100-500
Jurkat T cells (ATCC, VA, USA) with a diameter of approximately 5 mm
suspended in approx. 10 mm RPMI medium were introduced into the
micropipette using a fine glass tube. The pipette tip was then dipped into
a bath containing the ground electrode. Resistance was measured with
a 5 mV voltage step (see Fig. 8a). A pressure of 0.5 bar was applied to
the pipette flushing the cells towards the pipette tip. The pressure
gradient was removed as soon as the electric resistance of the pipette
increased indicating the positioning of a cell in the pipette taper (Fig.
This type of experiment could reproduce gigaseals between pipette
interior and cell membrane. Like with the conventional patch-clamp
method the electric resistance was in the range > 10 Gigaohm (see Fig.
This experiment further demonstrates that the cell is positioned in the
narrowing taper of the pipette as demonstrated in the microphotograph
shown in Fig. 9. Application of either a short pressure pulse (1 bar, 200
ms) or a voltage jump (500 mV, 0.1 ms) perforated the cell membrane
on one side. This was obvious from the increase in capacitive charge
movements (current transients). The gigaseal was typically stable over
extended time periods (10 - >60 min.) and was even resistant to
mechanical vibrations purposely applied to the micropipette.
The experiment described here shows unequivocally, that by introducing
a cell into a glass capillary featuring a narrow taper a stable gigaseal can
be obtained between cell membrane and the inner surface of the pipette
wall. The resistance and stability of the seal are high enough to achieve
the advantages described.
1. Method for measurements on cells or similar structures with the
patch-clamp technique wherein
- at least one cell is introduced into the inner lumen of a capillary
that along the length of the capillary at least at one position has
a smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of said cell,
wherein the capillary has a very clean inner surface at least in
the part with the smaller inner diameter and wherein said
smaller inner diameter is below 10 µm,
- said cell is positioned inside said capillary at said site forming a
giga-seal between cell membrane and inner surface of said
capillary with an electric resistance of at least 10 GigaOhm, and
- a patch-clamp experiment is subsequently performed on said
2. Method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said cell is introduced and
positioned in the capillary by flushing or sucking a suspension or
solution containing the cell into the capillary.
3. Method as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein said cell is introduced
and positioned in the capillary by centrifugation and/or
sedimentation applied to the suspension or solution containing said
4. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said
capillary is a class capillary.
5. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said
capillary is a micropipette.
6. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said
cell has a diameter below 100 µm, preferably below 50 µm,
wherein diameters from 30 µm to 3 µm are further preferred.
7. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said
cell or said suspension or solution containing said cell is
introduced into said capillary by passing it through a preferably
sterile-filtered liquid or solution, especially a physiological salt
8. Method as claimed in claim 7, wherein prior to the passing step
said preferably sterile-filtered liquid or solution is filled into the
capillary, thereby covering at least the position where the gigaseal
will take place.
9. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein the
position of said cell inside the capillary is controlled before or
during a patch-clamp experiment, preferably by measuring
pressures or flows or electric resistance or using optical signals,
preferably laser light, after positioning of a cell inside the capillary
10. Method as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said
cell is removed from the capillary after the patch-clamp
experiment, and the capillary is cleaned, preferably by flushing it
with an appropriate solvent or chemical.
11. Apparatus for experiments on cells or similar structures with the
patch-clamp method, especially for application of the method
described in any of the preceding claims, comprising
- at least one capillary (1) that along its length has a least at one
site a smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of a cell,
characterized in that the capillary (1) has a very clean inner surface
at least in the part with the smaller inner diameter and wherein said
smaller inner diameter is below 10 µm, and that is designed to hold
and position at least one cell in its lumen and allow formation of a
giga-seal between cell membrane and inner surface of said
capillary with an electric resistance of at least 10 GigaOhm,
- at least one device designed to introduce said cell into the
capillary lumen and position said cell and
- other devices required to perform a patch-clamp experiment.
12. Apparatus as claimed in claim 11, wherein said device for
introducing and positioning is designed to flush and/or drain at
least one suspension or solution containing said cell into or out of
the capillary lumen.
13. Apparatus as claimed in claim 12, wherein the following devices
- vessels are reservoirs (5) for liquids, suspensions and solutions,
- inlets (2) and/or outlets (2) connecting reservoirs (5) and
- pumps (3), valves (3) and/or tubes for liquids, suspensions and
solutions, and optionally
- devices for measuring pressure and flows.
14. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 11 to 13, wherein said
device for introducing and positioning is designed to centrifuge at
least one suspension or solution containing said cell into the
15. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 11 to 14, wherein said
capillary is a glass capillary.
16. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 11 to 15, wherein said
capillary (1) is a micropipette.
17. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 11 to 16, wherein devices
(6, 7) are included for measuring electric resistance and/or for
illumination, preferably with laser light and for analysing optical
signals following or during introduction of cells into the capillary.
18. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 11 to 17, designed to
perform patch-clamp experiments on cells automatically, wherein
multiple capillaries are arranged, preferably in a regularly spaced
19. Apparatus as claimed in claim 18, wherein multiple vessels,
preferably wells in a microtiter plate, are designed to hold
solutions and suspensions with cells or compounds and wherein
preferably a number of vessels is arranged corresponding to the
number of capillaries.
20. Apparatus as claimed in claim 19, wherein the capillaries and
vessels are arranged or can be positioned in a way, that
suspensions or solutions and their respective contents can be
transferred from vessels into capillaries of vice versa.
21. Apparatus as claimed in one of claims 18 to 20, wherein capillaries
can be replaced after a failing attempt to seal and preferably open a
cell in a way, that generates an array of capillaries wherein every
single capillary contains a sealed, opened cell ready to patch-clamp
22. Kit for performing the method claimed in any of claims 1 to 10,
comprising at least one capillary claimed in claim 1.
Method for measurements on cells or similar structures with the patch-clamp
technique wherein at least one cell is introduced into the inner lumen of a
capillary that along the length of the capillary at least at one position has a
smaller inner diameter than the outer diameter of said cell, wherein the
capillary has a very clean inner surface at least in the part with the smaller
inner diameter and wherein said smaller inner diameter is below 10 µm, said
cell is positioned inside said capillary at said site forming a giga-seal
between cell membrane and inner surface of said capillary with an electric
resistance of at least 10 GigaOhm, and a patch-clamp experiment is
subsequently performed on said cell.
|Indian Patent Application Number||101/KOLNP/2003|
|PG Journal Number||05/2008|
|Date of Filing||28-Jan-2003|
|Name of Patentee||FLYION GMBH|
|Applicant Address||GMELINSTRASSE 5 72076 TURINGEN GERMANY.|
|PCT International Classification Number||B/64|
|PCT International Application Number||PCT/EP01/08831|
|PCT International Filing date||2001-07-31|