QPatch: the missing link between HTS and ion channel drug discovery.
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The conventional patch clamp has long been considered the best approach for studying ion channel function and pharmacology. However, its low throughput has been a major hurdle to overcome for ion channel drug discovery. The recent emergence of higher throughput, automated patch clamp technology begins to break this bottleneck by providing medicinal chemists with high-quality, information-rich data in a more timely fashion. As such, these technologies have the potential to bridge a critical missing link between high-throughput primary screening and meaningful ion channel drug discovery programs. One of these technologies, the QPatch automated patch clamp system developed by Sophion Bioscience, records whole-cell ion channel currents from 16 or 48 individual cells in a parallel fashion. Here, we review the general applicability of the QPatch to studying a wide variety of ion channel types (voltage-/ligand-gated cationic/anionic channels) in various expression systems. The success rate of gigaseals, formation of the whole-cell configuration and usable cells ranged from 40-80%, depending on a number of factors including the cell line used, ion channel expressed, assay development or optimization time and expression level in these studies. We present detailed analyses of the QPatch features and results in case studies in which secondary screening assays were successfully developed for a voltage-gated calcium channel and a ligand-gated TRP channel. The increase in throughput compared to conventional patch clamp with the same cells was approximately 10-fold. We conclude that the QPatch, combining high data quality and speed with user friendliness and suitability for a wide array of ion channels, resides on the cutting edge of automated patch clamp technology and plays a pivotal role in expediting ion channel drug discovery.