Impedance analysis of GPCR-mediated changes in endothelial barrier function: overview and fundamental considerations for stable and reproducible measurements

Judith A. Stolwijk, Khalid Matrougui, Christian W. Renken, Mohamed Trebak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


The past 20 years has seen significant growth in using impedance-based assays to understand the molecular underpinning of endothelial and epithelial barrier function in response to physiological agonists and pharmacological and toxicological compounds. Most studies on barrier function use G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) agonists which couple to fast and transient changes in barrier properties. The power of impedance-based techniques such as electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) resides in its ability to detect minute changes in cell layer integrity label-free and in real-time ranging from seconds to days. We provide a comprehensive overview of the biophysical principles, applications, and recent developments in impedance-based methodologies. Despite extensive application of impedance analysis in endothelial barrier research, little attention has been paid to data analysis and critical experimental variables, which are both essential for signal stability and reproducibility. We describe the rationale behind common ECIS data presentation and interpretation and illustrate practical guidelines to improve signal intensity by adapting technical parameters such as electrode layout, monitoring frequency, or parameter (resistance versus impedance magnitude). Moreover, we discuss the impact of experimental parameters, including cell source, liquid handling, and agonist preparation on signal intensity and kinetics. Our discussions are supported by experimental data obtained from human microvascular endothelial cells challenged with three GPCR agonists, thrombin, histamine, and sphingosine-1-phosphate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2193-2218
Number of pages26
JournalPflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 13 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)

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