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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 7;108(23):9703-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016443108. Epub 2011 May 23.

ES cell-derived renewable and functional midbrain dopaminergic progenitors.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and Department of Psychiatry and Program in Neuroscience, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


During early development, midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neuronal progenitors (NPs) arise from the ventral mesencephalic area by the combined actions of secreted factors and their downstream transcription factors. These mDA NPs proliferate, migrate to their final destinations, and develop into mature mDA neurons in the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area. Here, we show that such authentic mDA NPs can be efficiently isolated from differentiated ES cells (ESCs) using a FACS method combining two markers, Otx2 and Corin. Purified Otx2(+)Corin(+) cells coexpressed other mDA NP markers, including FoxA2, Lmx1b, and Glast. Using optimized culture conditions, these mDA NPs continuously proliferated up to 4 wk with almost 1,000-fold expansion without significant changes in their phenotype. Furthermore, upon differentiation, Otx2(+)Corin(+) cells efficiently generated mDA neurons, as evidenced by coexpression of mDA neuronal markers (e.g., TH, Pitx3, Nurr1, and Lmx1b) and physiological functions (e.g., efficient DA secretion and uptake). Notably, these mDA NPs differentiated into a relatively homogenous DA population with few serotonergic neurons. When transplanted into PD model animals, aphakia mice, and 6-OHDA-lesioned rats, mDA NPs differentiated into mDA neurons in vivo and generated well-integrated DA grafts, resulting in significant improvement in motor dysfunctions without tumor formation. Furthermore, grafted Otx2(+)Corin(+) cells exhibited significant migratory function in the host striatum, reaching >3.3 mm length in the entire striatum. We propose that functional and expandable mDA NPs can be efficiently isolated by this unique strategy and will serve as useful tools in regenerative medicine, bioassay, and drug screening.

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