A method for high-content functional imaging of intracellular calcium responses in gelatin-immobilized non-adherent cells
© 2020 Functional imaging of the intracellular calcium concentration [Ca2+]i using fluorescent indicators is a powerful and frequently applied method for assessing various biological questions in vitro, including ion channel function and intracellular signaling in homeostasis and disease. In functional [Ca2+]i imaging experiments, the fluorescence intensity of single cells is typically recorded during application of a chemical stimulus, i.e. by exchange of modified extracellular media, exposure to drugs and/or ligands. The concomitant mechanical perturbation caused by the perfusion of different solution during experimentation severely hinders calcium imaging in non-adherent cells, including peripheral immune cells, as cells in suspension are dislocated by turbulent flow during chemical stimulation. The quantitative analysis, involving time-courses of intracellular fluorescence signal changes, necessitates cells to remain at the same position throughout the experiment. To prevent dislocation of cells during solution exchange, and to enable imaging as well as analysis of Ca2+ responses in immune cells, a gelatin-based method for immobilization of non-adherent cells was developed. Gelatin has been a long-serving material for cell immobilization, e.g. in 3D bio-printing of cells and has thus, also been employed in the context of this study. To demonstrate the applicability of the established method for functional Ca2+ imaging in gelatin-immobilized suspension cells, a proof-of-concept study was conducted using human peripheral blood model cell lines (Jurkat/T-lymphocytes and THP-1/monocytes), Ca2+ indicators (Fluo-4 and Fura-2) and two different fluorescence microscopy rigs. The data presented that the established methodology is applicable for studying Ca2+ signaling by in vitro high-content functional imaging of [Ca2+]i in suspension cells, including but not restricted to human immune cells.