JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results





Cancer Research

Screening Ion Channels in Cancer Cells

Published: June 16th, 2023



1Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Neuro-Oncology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 2Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Saint Joseph, 3The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

The pharmacological targeting of ion channels is a promising approach to treating solid tumors. Detailed protocols are provided for characterizing ion channel function in cancer cells and assaying the effects of ion channel modulators on cancer viability.

Ion channels are critical for cell development and maintaining cell homeostasis. The perturbation of ion channel function contributes to the development of a broad range of disorders or channelopathies. Cancer cells utilize ion channels to drive their own development, as well as to improve as a tumor and to assimilate in a microenvironment that includes various non-cancerous cells. Furthermore, increases in levels of growth factors and hormones within the tumor microenvironment can result in enhanced ion channel expression, which contributes to cancer cell proliferation and survival. Thus, the pharmacological targeting of ion channels is potentially a promising approach to treating solid malignancies, including primary and metastatic brain cancers. Herein, protocols to characterize the function of ion channels in cancerous cells and approaches to analyze modulators of ion channels to determine their impact on cancer viability are described. These include staining a cell(s) for an ion channel(s), testing the polarized state of mitochondria, establishing ion channel function using electrophysiology, and performing viability assays to assess drug potency.

Membrane transport proteins are critical for communication between cells, as well as for maintaining cellular homeostasis. Amongst the membrane transport proteins, ion channels serve to drive the growth and development of cells and to maintain the state of cells in challenging and changing environments. Ion channels have also been reported to drive and support the development of solid tumors, both systemically and in the central nervous system (CNS)1,2. For example, KCa3.1 channels are responsible for regulating membrane potential and controlling cell volume, which is important in cell-cycle regulation. Defect....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

1. Immunolabeling ion channels in cultured cells

  1. Preparing the cells and experimental set-up
    1. Maintain the cells as an actively growing culture in 75 cm2 culture flasks. Passage the cells once until they become 50%-90% confluent, depending on the doubling time of the cell line being used.
      NOTE: For the present study, D283 cells, a Group 3 medulloblastoma cell line, were used.
    2. Collect the cells from the culture flask into a centrifuge tube (15 mL or 50 mL), and add 2 mL.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Above are select procedures that can be employed to characterize ion channels in cancerous cells. The first protocol highlights the staining of an ion channel. As detailed, there are many challenges when staining an ion channel or, for that matter, any protein that is present in the extracellular membrane. Shown in Figure 1 is the staining for a subunit of the pentameric GABAA receptor. The second protocol highlights the results of testing the polarized state of mitochondria in ca.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Changes in ion channel function alter intracellular signaling cascades, which can impact the overall functioning of a cell. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that ion channels are important to cancer cell growth and metastasis. Importantly, many ion channels are primary targets for approved therapeutics targeting a broad range of disorders24. Investigators have probed whether ion channels could be anti-cancer targets, and the initial results are promising2

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The authors acknowledge support from the Thomas E. & Pamela M. Mischell Family Foundation to S.S. and the Harold C. Schott Foundation funding of the Harold C. Schott Endowed Chair, UC College of Medicine, to S.S.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
ABS SpectraMax Plate Reader Molecular Devices ABS
Accutase Invitrogen 00-4555-56
Alexa Flor 488 Invitrogen A32723 Goat Anti-Rabbit
Antibiotic-Antimycotic Gibco 15240-062 100x
B27 Supplement Gibco 12587-010 Lacks vitamin A
Biosafety Cabinet LABCONCO 302381101 Class II, Type A2
Bovine Serum Albumin Fisher Scientific BP1606-100
CO2 Incubator Fisher Scientific 13-998-211 Heracell VIOS 160i
Calcium Chloride Fisher Scientific C7902 Dihydrate
Cell Culture Dishes, 150 mm Fisher Scientific 12-600-004 Cell culture treated
Cell Culture Flasks, 75 cm2 Fisher Scientific 430641U Cell culture treated
Cell Culture Plates, 6 well Fisher Scientific 353046 Cell culture treated
Cell Culture Plates, 96 well Fisher Scientific 353072 Cell culture treated
Centrifuge Eppendorf EP-5804R Refrigerated
Corning CoolCell Fisher Scientific 07-210-0006
Coverslips, 22 x 22 mm Fisher Scientific 12-553-450 Corning brand
D283 Med ATCC HTB-185
DABCO Mounting Media EMS 17989-97
D-Glucose Sigma Life Sciences D9434
Dimethyl Sulfoxide Sigma Aldrich D2650 Cell culture grade
DMEM/F12, base media Fisher Scientific 11330-032 With phenol red
DMEM/F12, phenol red free Fisher Scientific 21041-025
EGTA Sigma Aldrich E4378
Epidermal Growth Factor STEMCELL 78006.1
FCCP Abcam AB120081
Fetal Bovine Serum, Qualified Gibco 10437-028
Fibroblast Growth Factor, Basic Millipore GF003
GARBA5 Antibody Aviva ARP30687_P050 Rabbit Polyclonal
Glutamax Gibco 35050-061
Glycerol Mounting Medium EMS 17989-60 With DAPI+DABCO
Hemocytometer Millipore Sigma
Heparin STEMCELL 7980
HEPES HyClone SH3023701 Solution
HEPES Fisher Scientific BP310-500 Solid
ImageJ Open platform With Fiji plugins
Immuno Mount DAPI EMS 17989-97
KRM-II-08 experimental compounds not available from a commercial source
Leica Application Suite X Leica Microsystems
Leukemia Inhibitory Factor Novus N276314100U
L-Glutamine Gibco 25030-081
Magnesium Chloride Sigma Aldrich M9272 Hexahydrate
Microscope, Confocal Leica SP8
Microscope, Light VWR 76382-982 DMiL Inverted
MTS - Promega One Step Promega G3581
Multi-channel pipette, 0.5-10 µL Eppendorf Z683914
Multi-channel pipette, 10-100 µL Eppendorf Z683930
Multi-channel pipette, 30-300 µL Eppendorf Z683957
Nest-O-Patch Heka
Neurobasal-A Medium Gibco 10888022 Without vitamin A
Neurobasal-A Medium Gibco 12348-017 Phenol red free
Non-Essential Amino Acids Gibco 11140-050
NOR-QH-II-66 experimental compounds not available from a commercial source
Parafilm Fisher Scientific 50-998-944 4 inch width
Paraformaldehyde EMS RT-15710
Penicillin-Streptomycin Gibco 15140-122
Perfusion System Nanion 4000120
PFA EMS RT-15710
Phosphate Bufered Saline Fisher Scientific AAJ75889K2 Reagent grade
Poly-D-Lysine Fisher Scientific A3890401
Poly-L-Lysine Sigma Life Sciences P4707
Port-a-Patch Nanion 21000072
Potassium Chloride Sigma Life Sciences P5405
Primary Antibody Invitrogen MA5-34653 Rabbit Monoclonal
Prism GraphPad
Propofol Fisher Scientific NC0758676 1 mL ampule
QH-II-66 experimental compounds not available from a commercial source
Reagent Reservoirs VWR 89094-664 Sterile
Slides, 75 x 25 mm Fisher Scientific 12-544-7 Frosted one side
Sodium Bicarbonate Corning 25-035-Cl
Sodium Chloride Fisher Scientific S271-3
Sodium Pyruvate Gibco 11360-070
Synth-a-Freeze Medium Gibco R00550 Cryopreservation
TMRE Fisher Scientific 50-196-4741 Reagent
TMRE Kit Abcam AB113852 Kit
Triton X-100 Sigma Aldrich NC0704309
Trypan Blue Gibco 15-250-061 Solution, 0.4%
Trypsin/EDTA Gibco 25200-072 Solution, 0.25%
Vortex Mixer VWR 97043-562
Whatman Filter Paper Fisher Scientific 09-927-841

  1. Prevarskaya, N., Skryma, R., Shuba, Y. Ion channels in cancer: Are cancer hallmarks oncochannelopathies. Physiological Reviews. 98 (2), 559-621 (2018).
  2. Rao, R., et al. Ligand-gated neurotransmitter receptors as targets for treatment and management of cancers. Frontiers in Physiology. 13, 839437 (2022).
  3. Mohr, C. J., et al. Cancer-associated intermediate conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel KCa3.1. Cancers. 11 (1), 109 (2019).
  4. Fels, B., Bulk, E., Petho, Z., Schwab, A. The role of TRP channels in the metastatic cascade. Pharmaceuticals. 11 (2), 48 (2018).
  5. Eil, R., et al. Ionic immune suppression within the tumour microenvironment limits T cell effector function. Nature. 537 (7621), 539-543 (2016).
  6. Haustrate, A., Hantute-Ghesquier, A., Prevarskaya, N., Lehen'kyi, V. Monoclonal antibodies targeting ion channels and their therapeutic potential. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 10, 606 (2019).
  7. Kischel, P., et al. Ion channels: New actors playing in chemotherapeutic resistance. Cancers. 11 (3), 376 (2019).
  8. Tuszynski, J., Tilli, T. M., Levin, M. Ion channel and neurotransmitter modulators as electroceutical approaches to the control of cancer. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 23 (32), 4827-4841 (2017).
  9. Kale, V. P., Amin, S. G., Pandey, M. K. Targeting ion channels for cancer therapy by repurposing the approved drugs. Biochimica Biophysica Acta. 1848 (10), 2747-2755 (2015).
  10. Wickenden, A., Priest, B., Erdemli, G. Ion channel drug discovery: Challenges and future directions. Future Medicinal Chemistry. 4 (5), 661-679 (2012).
  11. Rocha, P. R. F., Elghajiji, A., Tosh, D. Ultrasensitive system for electrophysiology of cancer cell populations: A review. Bioelectricity. 1 (3), 131-138 (2019).
  12. Sengupta, S., et al. α5-GABAA receptors negatively regulate MYC-amplified medulloblastoma growth. Acta Neuropathologica. 127 (4), 593-603 (2014).
  13. Jonas, O., et al. First in vivo testing of compounds targeting Group 3 medulloblastomas using an implantable microdevice as a new paradigm for drug development. Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology. 12 (6), 1297-1302 (2016).
  14. Kallay, L., et al. Modulating native GABAA receptors in medulloblastoma with positive allosteric benzodiazepine-derivatives induces cell death. Journal of Neurooncology. 142 (3), 411-422 (2019).
  15. Pomeranz Krummel, D. A., et al. Melanoma cell intrinsic GABAA receptor enhancement potentiates radiation and immune checkpoint response by promoting direct and T cell-mediated anti-tumor activity. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 109 (4), P1040-P1053 (2021).
  16. Bhattacharya, D., et al. Therapeutically leveraging GABAA receptors in cancer. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 246 (19), 2128-2135 (2021).
  17. Mazia, D., Schatten, G., Sale, W. Adhesion of cells to surfaces coated with polylysine. Applications to electron microscopy. Journal of Cell Biology. 66 (1), 198-200 (1975).
  18. Wiatrak, B., Kubis-Kubiak, A., Piwowar, A., Barg, E. PC12 cell line: Cell types, coating of culture vessels, differentiation and other culture conditions. Cells. 9 (4), 958 (2020).
  19. Baker, J. R. Fixation in cytochemistry and electron-microscopy. Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry. 6 (5), 303-308 (1958).
  20. Chung, J. Y., et al. Histomorphological and molecular assessments of the fixation times comparing formalin and ethanol-based fixatives. Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry. 66 (2), 121-135 (2018).
  21. Crowley, L. C., Christensen, M. E., Waterhouse, N. J. Measuring mitochondrial transmembrane potential by TMRE staining. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. 2016 (12), (2016).
  22. Cory, A. H., Owen, T. C., Barltrop, J. A., Cory, J. G. Use of an aqueous soluble tetrazolium/formazan assay for cell growth assays in culture. Cancer Communications. 3 (7), 207-212 (1991).
  23. Maro, B., Marty, M. C., Bornens, M. In vivo and in vitro effects of the mitochondrial uncoupler FCCP on microtubules. EMBO Journal. 1 (11), 1347-1352 (1982).
  24. Zheng, J., et al. Mechanism for regulation of melanoma cell death via activation of thermo-TRPV4 and TRPV. Journal of Oncology. 2019, 7362875 (2019).
  25. Konno, K., Watanabe, M., Luján, R., Ciruela, F. Immunohistochemistry for ion channels and their interacting molecules: Tips for improving antibody accessibility. Receptor and Ion Channel Detection in the Brain. , (2016).
  26. Mortensen, M., Smart, T. G. Single-channel recording of ligand-gated ion channels. Nature Protocols. 2 (11), 2826-2841 (2007).
  27. Franken, N. A., Rodermond, H. M., Stap, J., Haveman, J., van Bree, C. Clonogenic assay of cells in vitro. Nature Protocols. 1 (5), 2315-2319 (2006).
  28. Rafehi, H., et al. Clonogenic assay: Adherent cells. Journal of Visualized Experiments. (49), 2573 (2011).
  29. Scudiero, D. A., et al. Evaluation of a soluble tetrazolium/formazan assay for cell growth and drug sensitivity in culture using human and other tumor cell lines. Cancer Research. 48 (17), 4827-4833 (1988).
  30. Wang, P., Henning, S. M., Heber, D. Limitations of MTT and MTS-based assays for measurement of antiproliferative activity of green tea polyphenols. PLoS One. 5, e10202 (2010).
  31. Berridge, M. V., Tan, A. S. Characterization of the cellular reduction of 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT): subcellular localization, substrate dependence, and involvement of mitochondrial electron transport in MTT reduction. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 303 (2), 474-482 (1993).
  32. Plumb, J. A., Milroy, R., Kaye, S. B. Effects of the pH dependence of 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide-formazan absorption on chemosensitivity determined by a novel tetrazolium-based assay. Cancer Research. 49 (16), 4435-4440 (1989).
  33. Chakrabarti, R., Kundu, S., Kumar, S., Chakrabarti, R. Vitamin A as an enzyme that catalyzes the reduction of MTT to formazan by vitamin C. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. 80 (1), 133-138 (2000).
  34. Dong, G. W., Preisler, H. D., Priore, R. Potential limitations of in vitro clonogenic drug sensitivity assays. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology. 13 (3), 206-210 (1984).
  35. Sun, J., et al. STIM1- and Orai1-Mediated Ca2+oscillation orchestrates invadopodium formation and melanoma invasion. Journal of Cell Biology. 207 (4), 535-548 (2014).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved