High throughput electrophysiology with Xenopus oocytes

Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2009 Jan;12(1):38-50. doi: 10.2174/138620709787047975.


Voltage-clamp techniques are typically used to study the plasma membrane proteins, such as ion channels and transporters that control bioelectrical signals. Many of these proteins have been cloned and can now be studied as potential targets for drug development. The two approaches most commonly used for heterologous expression of cloned ion channels and transporters involve either transfection of the genes into small cells grown in tissue culture or the injection of the genetic material into larger cells. The standard large cells used for the expression of cloned cDNA or synthetic RNA are the egg progenitor cells (oocytes) of the African frog, Xenopus laevis. Until recently, cellular electrophysiology was performed manually by a single operator, one cell at a time. However, methods of high throughput electrophysiology have been developed which are automated and permit data acquisition and analysis from multiple cells in parallel. These methods are breaking a bottleneck in drug discovery, useful in some cases for primary screening as well as for thorough characterization of new drugs. Increasing throughput of high-quality functional data greatly augments the efficiency of academic research and pharmaceutical drug development. Some examples of studies that benefit most from high throughput electrophysiology include pharmaceutical screening of targeted compound libraries, secondary screening of identified compounds for subtype selectivity, screening mutants of ligand-gated channels for changes in receptor function, scanning mutagenesis of protein segments, and mutant-cycle analysis. We describe here the main features and potential applications of OpusXpress, an efficient commercially available system for automated recording from Xenopus oocytes. We show some types of data that have been gathered by this system and review realized and potential applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Oocytes
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Ion Channels