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OBJECTIVE: Cardiomyocytes derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells are a powerful platform for high-throughput drug screening in vitro. However, current modalities for drug testing, such as electrophysiology and fluorescence imaging have inherent drawbacks. To circumvent these problems, we report the development of a bioluminescent Ca2+ indicator GmNL(Ca2+), and its application in a customized microscope for high-throughput drug screening. RESULTS: GmNL(Ca2+) gives a 140% signal change with Ca2+, and can image drug-induced changes of Ca2+ dynamics in cultured cells. Since bioluminescence requires application of a chemical substrate, which is consumed over ~ 30 min we made a dedicated microscope with automated drug dispensing inside a light-tight box, to control drug addition. To overcome thermal instability of the luminescent substrate, or small molecule, dual climate control enables distinct temperature settings in the drug reservoir and the biological sample. By combining GmNL(Ca2+) with this adaptation, we could image spontaneous Ca2+ transients in cultured cardiomyocytes and phenotype their response to well-known drugs without accessing the sample directly. In addition, the bioluminescent strategy demonstrates minimal perturbation of contractile parameters and long-term observation attributable to lack of phototoxicity and photobleaching. Overall, bioluminescence may enable more accurate drug screening in a high-throughput manner.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Res Notes

Publication Date





Bioluminescence, Ca2+, Cardiomyocytes, Drug screening, Microscope, hiPSC, Calcium, Calcium Signaling, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Humans, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Luminescent Measurements, Microscopy, Myocytes, Cardiac