Microfluidic primary culture model of the lower motor neuron-neuromuscular junction circuit

J Neurosci Methods. 2013 Sep 15;218(2):164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.06.002. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Modelling the complex process of neuromuscular signalling is key to understanding not only normal circuit function but also importantly the mechanisms underpinning a range of degenerative diseases. We describe a novel in vitro model of the lower motor neuron-neuromuscular junction circuit, incorporating primary spinal motor neurons, supporting glia and skeletal muscle. This culture model is designed to spatially mimic the unique anatomical and cellular interactions of this circuit in compartmented microfluidic devices, such that the glial cells are located with motor neuron cell bodies in the cell body chamber and motor neuron axons extend to a distal chamber containing skeletal muscle cells whilst simultaneously allowing targeted intervention. This model is suitable for use in conjunction with a range of downstream experimental approaches and could also be modified to utilise other cellular sources including appropriate immortal cell lines, cells derived from transgenic models of disease and also patient derived stem cells.

Keywords: AChR; Cell culture; DIV; HBSS; Hanks balanced salt solution; Microfluidic; Motor neuron; Muscle; NMJ; Neuromuscular junction; PDMS; acetylcholine receptor; days in vitro; neuromuscular junction; poly(dimethylsiloxane); α-BTx; α-bungarotoxin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Coculture Techniques / methods
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / methods*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Muscle Cells / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley