Transfection of cells by electroporation is a widely used and efficient method. Recently, it has been shown that single neurons in brain slice cultures can be transfected using micropipettes loaded with plasmid DNA expression constructs. However, the transfection efficiencies were very low. Routine employment of single-cell electroporation (SCE) for transfection of neurons requires high and reliable efficiency together with good cell survival. Here, we describe the modification of electrophysiology techniques for SCE leading to very simple and efficient (up to 80%) transfection of neurons in organotypic rat hippocampus and mouse cortex slice cultures. Electroporation-mediated transfection was visualized in real-time by two-photon microscopy at the cellular level using fluorescently labeled oligonucleotides and plasmid DNA. Small oligonucleotides enter the cell immediately during pulse application while large plasmids remain localized for more than 10 min at the cell membrane before they enter the cell by an, as yet, unknown process. SCE does not affect the electrophysiology of transgene-expressing cells. Expression of several neuronal green fluorescent protein-tagged proteins demonstrates that the method can be employed to analyze subcellular trafficking and targeting in single living neurons.

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