Improved technique for studying ion channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes, including fast superfusion

Biophys J. 1994 Jul;67(1):395-401. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(94)80494-1.


The study of whole-cell currents from ion channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes with conventional two-electrode voltage clamp has two major limitations. First, the large diameter and spherical geometry of oocytes prevent extremely fast solution changes. Second, the internal medium is not controlled, which limits the experimental versatility of the oocyte expression system. For example, because the internal medium is not controlled, endogenous calcium-activated chloride conductances can contaminate currents measured with channels that are permeable to calcium. We describe a new technique that combines vaseline-gap voltage clamp for oocytes with a fast superfusion system. The vaseline-gap procedure is simplified by having the micropipette that monitors voltage serve a dual role as a perfusion micropipette that controls the internal solution. In addition, the technique provides fast external solution changes that are complete in 30-50 ms. We applied the approach to measure the calcium permeability of a muscle and a neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Very fast agonist induced currents were measured without contamination by the secondary activation of calcium-dependent chloride channels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology / instrumentation
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Female
  • Ion Channels / biosynthesis
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oocytes / drug effects
  • Oocytes / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Acetylcholine