Modalities of distortion of physiological voltage signals by patch-clamp amplifiers: a modeling study

Biophys J. 1998 Feb;74(2 Pt 1):831-42. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(98)74007-X.


An extensive evaluation of the possible alterations affecting physiological voltage signals recorded with patch-clamp amplifiers (PCAs) working in the current-clamp (CC) mode was carried out by following a modeling approach. The PCA output voltage and current signals obtained during CC recordings performed under simplified experimental conditions were exploited to determine the equations describing the generation of error currents and voltage distortions by PCAs. The functions thus obtained were used to construct models of PCAs working in the CC mode, which were coupled to numerical simulations of neuronal bioelectrical behavior; this allowed us to evaluate the effects of the same PCAs on different physiological membrane-voltage events. The models revealed that rapid signals such as fast action potentials are preferentially affected, whereas slower events, such as low-threshold spikes, are less altered. Prominent effects of model PCAs on fast action potentials were alterations of their amplitude, duration, depolarization and repolarization speeds, and, most notably, the generation of spurious afterhyperpolarizations. Processes like regular firing and burst firing could also be altered, under particular conditions, by the model PCAs. When a cell consisting of more than one single intracellular compartment was considered, the model PCAs distorted fast equalization transients. Furthermore, the effects of different experimental and cellular parameters (series resistance, cell capacitance, temperature) on PCA-generated artifacts were analyzed. Finally, the simulations indicated that no off-line correction based on manipulations of the error-current signals returned by the PCAs can be successfully performed in the attempt to recover unperturbed voltage signals, because of alterations of the overall current flowing through the cell-PCA system.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Mathematics
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques*