Chloride (Cl) participates in a variety of physiological functions. To study processes connected with Cl homeostasis we need effective and quantitative probes allowing measurements of intracellular Cl concentration ([Cl(-)](i)) in different cell types, particularly in specialized small cellular compartments such as dendrites and dendritic spines. Of the different tools proposed for monitoring [Cl(-)](i), the genetically encoded Cl-sensitive indicators are the most promising. Recently, a ratiometric CFP-YFP based construct, termed "Cl-Sensor", with a relatively high sensitivity to Cl has been proposed (Markova et al., 2008). In the present study, we have developed conditions for the efficient expression of Cl-Sensor in tiny neuronal compartments including distal dendrites and spines. We also propose a new approach for the calibration of intracellularly expressed probes using a natural triterpenoid saponin, β-escin. We have mapped [Cl(-)](i) distribution in different neuronal compartments of cultured hippocampal and spinal cord neurons. The maximum Cl concentration was observed in the soma and it had a tendency to decrease gradually along dendritic branches, reaching minimum values in thin distal dendrites. We have also monitored transient increases in intracellular Cl in dendritic spines caused by glutamate application. These results demonstrate that Cl-Sensor enables non-invasive monitoring of the [Cl(-)](i) distribution in different types of neurons with variable morphology. This probe represents an effective tool for the quantitative estimation of [Cl(-)](i) in various cellular compartments including dendritic spines.
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