Particle-mediated gene transfer to rat neurons in primary culture
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Gene transfer into neuronal cells provides an important approach to study their function. Particle-mediated gene delivery was used to transfect rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and hippocampal neurons in primary culture with the genes for the enhanced blue and green fluorescent proteins (EBFP and EGFP) under control of the cytomegalovirus promoter. Quantitative analysis of marker protein fluorescence detected expression at 3 h that continued to increase for 48 h. For DRG neurons the optimal expression efficiency of 8±2% was obtained 24 h following transfection. In contrast, approximately 2±1% of hippocampal neurons in culture expressed EGFP at 3 h which subsequently declined. Co-transfection of DRG cultures with two plasmids produced reliable expression of both genes. Transfected DRG neurons exhibited normal electrophysiological properties, and resting and stimulated intracellular Ca2+ concentrations were unchanged. After transfection, 44% of hippocampal neurons remained in functional synaptic networks as indicated by glutamatergic Ca2+ spiking activity. Particle-mediated gene delivery provided a straightforward, reproducible and efficient method for transfection of neurons in primary culture. Transfected cells were easily identified by EGFP fluorescence, enabling subsequent physiological analysis. Biolistic particle bombardment was well tolerated by peripheral neurons, although caution was required when this method was applied to CNS cultures.
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