, Volume 443, Issue 4, pp 664-670

Single-cell electroporation

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Abstract.

Using modified patch-clamp methodology, we demonstrated that it is possible to insert genes or other compounds routinely into single cells by electroporation. When the cell is indented by a small-tipped microelectrode, a voltage of 10 V or less in the pipette is divided by the pipette resistance and the series resistance of the cleft between the pipette tip and the cell surface. The voltage at the cell membrane can be high enough to cause localized dielectric breakdown of the membrane and create pores that allow compounds in the pipette to enter the cell. Rectangular pulses from 20 µs to more than 300 ms are effective, as are frequencies from DC to 5 kHz. The most significant parameter was the total time for which the voltage was applied. Pipette voltages of 2–10 V were required, with larger genes requiring larger voltages. With optimal parameters, transfection rates in excess of 80% were also possible routinely. This approach offers an effective alternative to intracellular pressure injection and iontophoresis for placing genes, drugs, and other compounds in cells. Because of the small size of the electrode tips, substances can be inserted in cells from almost any location on their surfaces. In addition, the small tips electroporated only a limited area and so did little cell damage.

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