The development of high-content screening technologies including automated immunostaining, automated image acquisition and automated image analysis have enabled higher throughput of cellular imaging-based assays. Here we used high-content imaging to thoroughly characterize the cultures of primary rat cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs). We describe procedures to isolate and cultivate the CGNs in 96-well and 384-well format, as well as a procedure to freeze and thaw the CGNs. These methods allow the use of CGNs in 96-well format analyzing 2500 samples per experiment using freshly isolated cells. Down-scaling to 384-well format and freezing and thawing of the CGNs allow even higher throughput. A cellular assay with rat CGN cultures was established to study the neurotoxicity of compounds in order to filter out toxic compounds at an early phase of drug development. The imaging-based toxicity assay was able to reveal adverse effects of compounds on primary neurons which were not detected in neuroblastoma or other cell lines tested.
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