The concepts of transistor recording of electroactive cells are considered, when the response is determined by a current-induced voltage in the electrolyte due to cellular activity. The relationship to traditional transistor recording, with an interface-induced response due to interactions with the open gate oxide, is addressed. For the geometry of a cell-substrate junction, the theory of a planar core-coat conductor is described with a one-compartment approximation. The fast electrical relaxation of the junction and the slow change of ion concentrations are pointed out. On that basis, various recording situations are considered and documented by experiments. For voltage-gated ion channels under voltage clamp, the effects of a changing extracellular ion concentration and the enhancement/depletion of ion conductances in the adherent membrane are addressed. Inhomogeneous ion conductances are crucial for transistor recording of neuronal action potentials. For a propagating action potential, the effects of an axon-substrate junction and the surrounding volume conductor are distinguished. Finally, a receptor-transistor-sensor is described, where the inhomogeneity of a ligand–activated ion conductance is achieved by diffusion of the agonist and inactivation of the conductance. Problems with regard to a development of reliable biosensors are mentioned.
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