Can robots patch-clamp as well as humans? Characterization of a novel sodium channel mutation.

Department of Neurology, Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.
The Journal of Physiology (Impact Factor: 4.54). 06/2010; 588(Pt 11):1915-27. DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.186114
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Ion channel missense mutations cause disorders of excitability by changing channel biophysical properties. As an increasing number of new naturally occurring mutations have been identified, and the number of other mutations produced by molecular approaches such as in situ mutagenesis has increased, the need for functional analysis by patch-clamp has become rate limiting. Here we compare a patch-clamp robot using planar-chip technology with human patch-clamp in a functional assessment of a previously undescribed Nav1.7 sodium channel mutation, S211P, which causes erythromelalgia. This robotic patch-clamp device can increase throughput (the number of cells analysed per day) by 3- to 10-fold. Both modes of analysis show that the mutation hyperpolarizes activation voltage dependence (8 mV by manual profiling, 11 mV by robotic profiling), alters steady-state fast inactivation so that it requires an additional Boltzmann function for a second fraction of total current (approximately 20% manual, approximately 40% robotic), and enhances slow inactivation (hyperpolarizing shift--15 mV by human,--13 mV robotic). Manual patch-clamping demonstrated slower deactivation and enhanced (approximately 2-fold) ramp response for the mutant channel while robotic recording did not, possibly due to increased temperature and reduced signal-to-noise ratio on the robotic platform. If robotic profiling is used to screen ion channel mutations, we recommend that each measurement or protocol be validated by initial comparison to manual recording. With this caveat, we suggest that, if results are interpreted cautiously, robotic patch-clamp can be used with supervision and subsequent confirmation from human physiologists to facilitate the initial profiling of a variety of electrophysiological parameters of ion channel mutations.

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