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Exp Neurol. 2004 Nov;190(1):42-58.

Induction of GABAergic phenotype in a neural stem cell line for transplantation in an excitotoxic model of Huntington's disease.

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Departament de Biologia Cellular i Anatomia Patològica, Facultat de Medicina, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Universitat de Barcelona, E-08036 Barcelona, Spain.


The implementation of cell replacement therapies for Huntington's disease using multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) requires the specific differentiation into gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neuronal subtype before transplantation. Here we present an efficient culture procedure that induces stable GABAergic neurons from the immortalized striatal neural stem cell line ST14A. This process requires sequential retinoic acid treatment and KCl depolarization. Initial addition of 10 microM retinoic acid increased cell survival and promoted neuronal differentiation. Subsequent stimulation with 40 mM KCl induced specific differentiation into GABAergic neurons, yielding 74% of total cultured cells. KCl-evoked Ca(2+) influx reduced cell proliferation and nestin expression, and induced neurite outgrowth and GABAergic markers as well as GABA contents, release, and uptake. Characterization of the integration, survival, and phenotype of these predifferentiated GABAergic neurons following transplantation into the adult brain in a model of Huntington's disease revealed long-term survival in quinolinate-lesioned striata. Under these conditions, cells maintained their GABAergic phenotype and elaborated neurite processes with synaptic contacts with endogenous neurons. In conclusion, we have generated a homogeneous population of functional GABAergic neurons from a neural stem cell line, which survive and maintain their acquired fate in vivo. These data may lend support to the possibility of cell replacement therapies for Huntington's disease using neural stem cells.

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