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Improved patch-clamp techniques for high-resolution current recording from cells and cell-free membrane patches


  1. 1.

    The extracellular patch clamp method, which first allowed the detection of single channel currents in biological membranes, has been further refined to enable higher current resolution, direct membrane patch potential control, and physical isolation of membrane patches.

  2. 2.

    A description of a convenient method for the fabrication of patch recording pipettes is given together with procedures followed to achieve giga-seals i.e. pipettemembrane seals with resistances of 109–1011Ω.

  3. 3.

    The basic patch clamp recording circuit, and designs for improved frequency response are described along with the present limitations in recording the currents from single channels.

  4. 4.

    Procedures for preparation and recording from three representative cell types are given. Some properties of single acetylcholine-activated channels in muscle membrane are described to illustrate the improved current and time resolution achieved with giga-seals.

  5. 5.

    A description is given of the various ways that patches of membrane can be physically isolated from cells. This isolation enables the recording of single channel currents with well-defined solutions on both sides of the membrane. Two types of isolated cell-free patch configurations can be formed: an inside-out patch with its cytoplasmic membrane face exposed to the bath solution, and an outside-out patch with its extracellular membrane face exposed to the bath solution.

  6. 6.

    The application of the method for the recording of ionic currents and internal dialysis of small cells is considered. Single channel resolution can be achieved when recording from whole cells, if the cell diameter is small (<20μm).

  7. 7.

    The wide range of cell types amenable to giga-seal formation is discussed.

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Correspondence to B. Sakmann.

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Hamill, O.P., Marty, A., Neher, E. et al. Improved patch-clamp techniques for high-resolution current recording from cells and cell-free membrane patches. Pflugers Arch. 391, 85–100 (1981).

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Key words

  • Voltage-clamp
  • Membrane currents
  • Single channel recording
  • Ionic channels