Genetically encoded calcium indicators have proven useful for characterizing dorsal root ganglion neuron excitability in vivo. Challenges persist in achieving high spatial–temporal resolutions in vivo, however, due to deep tissue imaging and motion artifacts that may be limiting technical factors in obtaining measurements. Here we report an ex vivo imaging method, using a peripheral neuron-specific Advillin-GCaMP mouse line and electric field stimulation of dorsal root ganglion tissues, to assess the sensitivity of neurons en bloc. The described method rapidly characterizes Ca2+ activity in hundreds of dorsal root ganglion neurons (221 ± 64 per dorsal root ganglion) with minimal perturbation to the in situ soma environment. We further validate the method for use as a drug screening platform with the voltage-gated sodium channel inhibitor, tetrodotoxin. Drug treatment led to decreased evoked Ca2+ activity; half-maximal response voltage (EV50) increased from 13.4 V in untreated tissues to 21.2, 23.3, 51.5 (p < 0.05), and 60.6 V (p < 0.05) at 0.01, 0.1, 1, and 10 µM doses, respectively. This technique may help improve an understanding of neural signaling while retaining tissue structural organization and serves as a tool for the rapid ex vivo recording and assessment of neural activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1110-1118
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of biomedical engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Calcium imaging
  • Drug screening
  • GCaMP
  • GECI
  • High content imaging
  • Nervous system


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