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J Neurosci Methods. 2004 Apr 30;134(2):179-90.

Novel naphthylstyryl-pyridium potentiometric dyes offer advantages for neural network analysis.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The submucous plexus of the guinea pig intestine is a quasi-two-dimensional mammalian neural network that is particularly amenable to study using multiple site optical recording of transmembrane voltage (MSORTV) [Biol. Bull. 183 (1992) 344; J. Neurosci. 19 (1999) 3073]. For several years the potentiometric dye of choice for monitoring the electrical activity of its individual neurons has been di-8-ANEPPS [Neuron 9 (1992) 393], a naphthylstyryl-pyridinium dye with a propylsulfonate headgroup that provides relatively large fluorescence changes during action potentials and synaptic potentials. Limitations to the use of this dye, however, have been its phototoxicity and its low water solubility which requires the presence of DMSO and Pluronic F-127 in the staining solution. In searching for less toxic and more soluble dyes exhibiting larger fluorescence signals, we first tried the dienylstyryl-pyridinium dye RH795 [J. Neurosci. 14 (1994) 2545] which is highly soluble in water. This dye yielded relatively large signals, but it was internalized quickly by the submucosal neurons resulting in rapid degradation of the signal-to-noise ratio. We decided to synthesize a series of naphthylstyryl-pyridinium dyes (di-n-ANEPPDHQ) having the same chromophore as di-8-ANEPPS and the quaternary ammonium headgroup (DHQ) of RH795 (resulting in two positive charges versus the neutral propylsulfonate-ring nitrogen combination), and we tested the di-methyl (JPW3039), di-ethyl (JPW2081), di-propyl (JPW3031), di-butyl (JPW5029), and di-octyl (JPW5037) analogues, all of them soluble in ethanol. We found that the di-propyl (di-3-ANEPPDHQ) and the di-butyl (di-4-ANEPPDHQ) forms yielded the best combination of signal-to-noise ratio, moderate phototoxicity and absence of dye internalization.

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