Errors in the measurement of voltage-activated ion channels in cell-attached patch-clamp recordings

Nat Commun. 2011;2:242. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1225.


Patch-clamp recording techniques have revolutionized understanding of the function and sub-cellular location of ion channels in excitable cells. The cell-attached patch-clamp configuration represents the method of choice to describe the endogenous properties of voltage-activated ion channels in the axonal, somatic and dendritic membrane of neurons, without disturbance of the intracellular milieu. Here, we directly examine the errors associated with cell-attached patch-clamp measurement of ensemble ion channel activity. We find for a number of classes of voltage-activated channels, recorded from the soma and dendrites of neurons in acute brain-slices and isolated cells, that the amplitude and kinetics of ensemble ion channel activity recorded in cell-attached patches is significantly distorted by transmembrane voltage changes generated by the flow of current through the activated ion channels. We outline simple error-correction procedures that allow a more accurate description of the density and properties of voltage-activated channels to be incorporated into computational models of neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artifacts*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Cation Channels / genetics
  • Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Cation Channels / metabolism*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electricity
  • Gene Expression
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Ions / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / standards*
  • Plasmids
  • Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Transfection


  • Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Cation Channels
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • Ions
  • Potassium Channels