Using gadolinium to identify stretch-activated channels: technical considerations

Am J Physiol. 1998 Aug;275(2):C619-21. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1998.275.2.C619.


Gadolinium (Gd3+) blocks cation-selective stretch-activated ion channels (SACs) and thereby inhibits a variety of physiological and pathophysiological processes. Gd3+ sensitivity has become a simple and widely used method for detecting the involvement of SACs, and, conversely, Gd3+ insensitivity has been used to infer that processes are not dependent on SACs. The limitations of this approach are not adequately appreciated, however. Avid binding of Gd3+ to anions commonly present in physiological salt solutions and culture media, including phosphate- and bicarbonate-buffered solutions and EGTA in intracellular solutions, often is not taken into account. Failure to detect an effect of Gd3+ in such solutions may reflect the vanishingly low concentrations of free Gd3+ rather than the lack of a role for SACs. Moreover, certain SACs are insensitive to Gd3+, and Gd3+ also blocks other ion channels. Gd3+ remains a useful tool for studying SACs, but appropriate care must be taken in experimental design and interpretation to avoid both false negative and false positive conclusions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Gadolinium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Gadolinium / pharmacology*
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Ion Channels
  • Gadolinium