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The Specification of Telencephalic Glutamatergic Neurons from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Published: April 14th, 2013



1Department of Neuroscience, The University of Connecticut Health Center, 2Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, The University of Connecticut Health Center, 3Stem Cell Institute, The University of Connecticut Health Center

This procedure yields telencephalic neurons by going through checkpoints which are similar to those observed during human development. The cells are allowed to spontaneously differentiate, are exposed to factors which push them towards the neural lineage, are isolated, and are plated onto coverslips to allow for terminal differentiation and maturation.

Here, a stepwise procedure for efficiently generating telencephalic glutamatergic neurons from human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) has been described. The differentiation process is initiated by breaking the human PSCs into clumps which round up to form aggregates when the cells are placed in a suspension culture. The aggregates are then grown in hESC medium from days 1-4 to allow for spontaneous differentiation. During this time, the cells have the capacity to become any of the three germ layers. From days 5-8, the cells are placed in a neural induction medium to push them into the neural lineage. Around day 8, the cells are allowed to attach onto 6 well plates and differentiate during which time the neuroepithelial cells form. These neuroepithelial cells can be isolated at day 17. The cells can then be kept as neurospheres until they are ready to be plated onto coverslips. Using a basic medium without any caudalizing factors, neuroepithelial cells are specified into telencephalic precursors, which can then be further differentiated into dorsal telencephalic progenitors and glutamatergic neurons efficiently. Overall, our system provides a tool to generate human glutamatergic neurons for researchers to study the development of these neurons and the diseases which affect them.

Human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), including both human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), have the capacity to generate every cell type in the body, including neurons1-3. Directed differentiation of various neuronal subtypes from human PSCs holds the key for the application of these cells in regenerative medicine. The generation of functional neuronal subtypes during development is a complex process involving the induction of neural lineage, the specification of regional progenitors along the rostro-caudal axis, and the differentiation of post-mitotic neuron types from the regional progenitors4,5. Beginnin....

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1. Generation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Aggregates (D1-D4)

  1. Human pluripotent stem cells are cultured on mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) feeders in the presence of hESC medium supplemented with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF, 4 ng/ml). After 5-7 days in culture, when the colonies are big but still undifferentiated, they are ready for the next step.
  2. The enzyme solution should first be prepared. In a 50 ml tube, dissolve the dispase (or collagenase) at a 1 mg/ml concentration into DMEM/F12 .......

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Here, a protocol to differentiate human PSCs into telencephalic glutamatergic neurons through several critical steps: the formation of PSC aggregates, the induction of neuroepithelial cells, the generation of telencephalic progenitors, and the terminal differentiation of these progenitors into telencephalic neurons (Figure 1) has been described. This system is robust and efficient in the generation of telencephalic progenitors and glutamatergic neurons. As an example (Figure 2), without .......

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There are several critical steps during the neural differentiation process. It is important to ensure that the human PSCs are pluripotent because otherwise the cells may already be biased towards becoming a non-neuronal lineage. This can be confirmed by staining the human PSCs with antibodies against pluripotency markers such as Oct4, Sox2, Nanog, and Tra-1-60 1-3. If the human PSCs do not attach very well after passaging them, ROCK inhibitor (Y27632) can be added to help. For those having difficulty with keep.......

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Y. Sasai for generously providing the FOXG1 antibody. This work was supported by Connecticut Stem Cell Research Grants (08-SCB-UCHC-022 and 11-SCB24) and Spastic Paraplegia Foundation.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Reagent Supplier Catalog #
Dulbecco's modified eagle medium with F12 nutrient mixture (DMEM/F12) Gibco 11330-032
Knockout Serum Replacer Gibco 10828-028
L-glutamine (200 mM) Gibco 25030
Non Essential Amino Acids Gibco 1140-050
2-Mercaptoethanol (14.3 M) Sigma M-7522
Neurobasal medium Gibco 21103-049
N2 Gibco 17502-048
B27 Gibco 12587-010
Heparin Sigma H3149
Poly-L-ornithine hydrobromide (polyornithine) Sigma 116K5103
Laminin (human) Sigma L-6274
Laminin (mouse) Invitrogen 23017-015
FBS Gemini 100-106
Bovine serum albumin (BSA) Sigma A-7906
Dispase Gibco 17105-041
Collagenase Invitrogen 17104-019
Accutase Innovative Cell Technologies AT104
ROCK Inhibitor Stemgent 04-0012
SB431542 Stemgent 04-0010
Dorsomorphin Stemgent 04-0024
Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2, bFGF) Invitrogen 13256-029
Trypsin inhibitor Gibco 17075
0.1% gelatin Millipore ES-006-B
Foxg1 antibody Dr. Y. Sasai  
Hoxb4 antibody (1:50) Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank I12
Pax6 antibody (1:5000) Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank PAX6
Nkx2.1 antibody (1:200) Chemicon MAB5460
Tbr1 antibody (1:2000) Chemicon AB9616
vGLUT1 antibody (1:100) Synaptic Systems 135302
Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) PrepoTech Inc. 450-02
Glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) PrepoTech Inc. 450-10
Insulin growth factor 1 (IGF1) PrepoTech Inc. 100-11
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) Sigma D-0260
Sonic hedgehog (SHH) R&D 1845-SH
50 ml tubes Becton Dickinson (BD) 352098
15 ml tubes BD 352097
6 well plates BD 353046
24 well plates BD 353047
T25 flasks (untreated) BD 353009
T75 flasks (untreated) BD 353133
Coverslips Chemiglass Life Sciences 1760-012
6 cm Petri dishes BD 353004
9'' glass pipetes Fisher 13-678-20D
Steriflip filters (0.22 μM) Millipore SCGP00525
Stericup filters 1,000 ml (0.22 μM) Millipore SCGPU10RE
Phase contrast microscope (Observer A1) Zeiss R2625
Carbon dioxide incubator (Hera Cell 150) Thermo Electron Corporation  
Biosafety hood (Sterilgard III Advance) The Baker Company  
Centrifuge (5702 R) Eppendorf  

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