Impact of calcium-sensitive dyes on the beating properties and pharmacological responses of human iPS-derived cardiomyocytes using the calcium transient assay

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. May-Jun 2018;91:80-86. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Feb 6.


Introduction: Calcium-based screening of hiPS-CMs is a useful preclinical safety evaluation platform with the ability to generate robust signals that facilitates high-throughput screening and data analysis. However, due to the potential inherent toxicities, it is important to understand potential effects of different calcium-sensitive dyes on the hiPS-CMs model.

Methods: We compared three calcium-sensitive fluorescence dyes (Cal520, ACTOne and Calcium 5) for their impact on the variability, the beating properties and the pharmacological responses of hiPS-CMs using the Hamamatsu FDSS/μCell imaging platform. Direct effects of three dyes on the electrophysiological properties of hiPS-CMs were evaluated with the multi-electrode array (MEA) Axion Maestro platform.

Results: We propose a specific experimental protocol for each dye which gives the most optimal assay conditions to minimize variability and possible adverse effects. We showed that Cal520 had the smallest effect on hiPS-CMs together with the longest-lasting stable amplitude signal (up to 4 h). Although all dyes had a (minor) acute effect on hiPS-CMs, in the form of reduced beat rate and prolonged field potential duration, the selection of the dye did not influence the pharmacological response of four cardioactive drugs (dofetilide, moxifloxacin, nimodipine and isoprenaline).

Discussion: In conclusion, we have documented that different calcium sensitive dyes have only minor direct (acute) effects on hiPS-CMs with Cal520 showing the least effects and the longest lasting signal amplitude. Importantly, drug-induced pharmacological responses in hiPS-CMs were comparable between the three dyes. These findings should help further improve the robustness of the hiPS-CMs-based calcium transient assay as a predictive, preclinical cardiac safety evaluation tool.

Keywords: Calcium fluorescent dye; Calcium transient; Human stem cell cardiomyocytes; Preclinical cardiac safety.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Electrodes
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / instrumentation
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology
  • Time Factors


  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Calcium