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Stem Cells Dev. 2013 May 15;22(10):1551-63. doi: 10.1089/scd.2012.0556. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Coordinated development of voltage-gated Na+ and K+ currents regulates functional maturation of forebrain neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Like embryonic stem (ES) cells, human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells can differentiate into neuronal cells. However, it is unclear how their exquisite neuronal function is electrophysiologically coordinated during differentiation and whether they are functionally identical to human ES cell-derived neurons. In this study, we differentiated hiPS and ES cells into pyramidal-like neurons and conducted electrophysiological characterization over the 4-week terminal differentiation period. The human neuron-like cells express forebrain pyramidal cell markers NeuN, neurofilament, the microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), the paired box protein Pax-6 (PAX6), Tuj1, and the forkhead box protein G1 (FoxG1). The size of developing neurons increased continuously during the 4-week culture, and cell-resting membrane potentials (RMPs) underwent a negative shift from -40 to -70 mV. Expression of the muscarinic receptor-modulated K(+) currents (IM) participated in the development of cell RMPs and controlled excitability. Immature neurons at week 1 could only fire abortive action potentials (APs) and the frequency of AP firing progressively increased with neuronal maturation. Interestingly, the developmental change of voltage-gated Na(+) current (INa) did not correlate with the change in the AP firing frequency. On the other hand, the transient outward K(+) current (IA), but not the delayed rectifier current (IK) contributed to the high frequency firing of APs. Synaptic activities were observed throughout the 4-week development. These morphological and electrophysiological features were almost identical between iPS and ES cell-derived neurons. This is the first systematic investigation showing functional evidence that hiPS cell-derived neurons possess similar neuronal activities as ES cell-derived neurons. These data support that iPS cell-derived neural progenitor cells have the potential for replacing lost neurons in cell-based therapy.

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