Neuromuscular Junction Model Optimized for Electrical Platforms

Emilia A. Solomon, Allison M. Rooney, Arasely M. Rodriguez, Sofiya Micheva-Viteva, Rashid Bashir, Rashi Iyer, Jennifer Foster Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), specialized synapses between motor neurons and muscle fibers, are essential for muscle activity. A simple and reproducible cell-based in vitro NMJ platform is needed to test the impact of chemicals on the neuron-muscle communication. Our platform utilizes genetically modified neurons and muscle cells, optimized culture conditions, and commercially available multielectrode array system for recording action potentials. Neuronal cells (NSC34) were optogenetically modified with channelrhodopsin chimera to allow for simultaneous, light-mediated, millisecond-precise activation of neuronal population. This signal is propagated through functional synapses to the muscle fibers. Muscle cells (C2C12) were modified by incorporating gap junction protein (Connexin-43) to improve intracellular communication without affecting muscle differentiation. This communication between muscle fibers resulted in better signal propagation and signal strength. Optimized culture medium facilitated the growth and differentiation of both cell types together. Our system was validated using vecuronium, a muscle relaxant, which abolished the muscle response. This in vitro model provides a unique tool for establishing a NMJ platform that is easy to record and analyze. Potential applications include nondestructive long-term screening of drugs affecting the NMJ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-252
Number of pages11
JournalTissue Engineering - Part C: Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • motor neurons
  • multielectrode array
  • neuromuscular junction
  • skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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