Derivation of homogeneous GABAergic neurons from mouse embryonic stem cells

Exp Neurol. 2009 Jun;217(2):407-16. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.03.032. Epub 2009 Apr 5.


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) promise an unlimited source of defined cells for cell transplantation therapy, while protocols for derivation of homogeneous populations of desirable cell types are yet to be developed and/or refined. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and disturbed GABAergic signaling is associated with a host of neurological conditions. We developed a simple ES cell differentiation protocol which led to the production of uniform GABAergic neurons in approximately 2 weeks. The differentiation protocol involved treatment of embryoid bodies (EBs) with high concentrations (10(-5)-10(-)(4) M) of all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) for 3 days. After plating these EBs on attached dishes in neural supportive medium, 93-96% of the cells became GABA-positive neurons in 7-11 days. These cells also expressed immature neuronal markers with voltage-gated delayed rectifier potassium currents, suggesting that they were immature GABAergic neurons. The technology may have implications for modeling and treatment of GABAergic signaling-related diseases and injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / metabolism
  • Spheroids, Cellular
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Tretinoin