Release of neurotransmitters and hormones by calcium regulated exocytosis is a fundamental cellular/molecular process that is disrupted in a variety of psychiatric, neurological, and endocrine disorders. Therefore, this area represents a relevant target for drug and therapeutic development, efforts that will be aided by novel analytical tools and devices that provide mechanistically rich data with increased throughput. Toward this goal, we have electrochemically deposited iridium oxide (IrOx) films onto planar thin film platinum electrodes (20 μm×300 μm) and utilized these for quantitative detection of catecholamine release from adrenal chromaffin cells trapped in a microfluidic network. The IrOx electrodes show a linear response to norepinephrine in the range of 0-400 μM, with a sensitivity of 23.1±0.5 mA/M mm(2). The sensitivity of the IrOx electrodes does not change in the presence of ascorbic acid, a substance commonly found in biological samples. A replica molded polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic device with nanoliter sensing volumes was aligned and sealed to a glass substrate with the sensing electrodes. Small populations of chromaffin cells were trapped in the microfluidic device and stimulated by rapid perfusion with high potassium (50mM) containing Tyrode's solution at a flow rate of 1 nL/s. Stimulation of the cells produced a rapid increase in current due to oxidation of the released catecholamines, with an estimated maximum concentration in the cell culture volume of ~52 μM. Thus, we demonstrate the utility of an integrated microfluidic network with IrOx electrodes for real-time quantitative detection of catecholamines released from small populations of chromaffin cells.
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