Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Characterization of GABAA receptor ligands with automated patch-clamp using human neurons derived from pluripotent stem cells. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods 2016;82:109-114



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-84989944608 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   10 Citations


INTRODUCTION: Automated patch clamp is a recent but widely used technology to assess pre-clinical drug safety. With the availability of human neurons derived from pluripotent stem cells, this technology can be extended to determine CNS effects of drug candidates, especially those acting on the GABAA receptor.

METHODS: iCell Neurons (Cellular Dynamics International, A Fujifilm Company) were cultured for ten days and analyzed by patch clamp in the presence of agonist GABA or in combination with positive allosteric GABAA receptor modulators. Both efficacy and affinity were determined. In addition, mRNA of GABAA receptor subunits were quantified by qRT-PCR.

RESULTS: We have shown that iCell Neurons are compatible with the IonFlux microfluidic system of the automated patch clamp instrument. Resistance ranging from 15 to 25MΩ was achieved for each trap channel of patch clamped cells in a 96-well plate format. GABA induced a robust change of current with an EC50 of 0.43μM. Positive GABAA receptor modulators diazepam, HZ-166, and CW-04-020 exhibited EC50 values of 0.42μM, 1.56μM, and 0.23μM, respectively. The α2/α3/α5 selective compound HZ-166-induced the highest potentiation (efficacy) of 810% of the current induced by 100nM GABA. Quantification of GABAA receptor mRNA in iCell Neurons revealed high levels of α5 and β3 subunits and low levels of α1, which is similar to the configuration in human neonatal brain.

DISCUSSION: iCell Neurons represent a new cellular model to characterize GABAergic compounds using automated patch clamp. These cells have excellent representation of cellular GABAA receptor distribution that enable determination of total small molecule efficacy and affinity as measured by cell membrane current change.

Author List

Yuan NY, Poe MM, Witzigmann C, Cook JM, Stafford D, Arnold LA


Alexander (Leggy) Arnold PhD Professor in the Chemistry & Biochemistry department at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
James M. Cook PhD University Distinguished Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Allosteric Regulation
Cell Culture Techniques
Cells, Cultured
GABA-A Receptor Agonists
Membrane Potentials
Patch-Clamp Techniques
Pluripotent Stem Cells
Protein Subunits
Receptors, GABA-A