Astroglial cells regulate the developmental timeline of human neurons differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells

Stem Cell Res. 2013 Sep;11(2):743-57. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2013.05.002. Epub 2013 May 16.


Neurons derived from human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) have been used to model a variety of neurological disorders. Different protocols have been used to differentiate hiPSCs into neurons, but their functional maturation process has varied greatly among different studies. Here, we demonstrate that laminin, a commonly used substrate for iPSC cultures, was inefficient to promote fully functional maturation of hiPSC-derived neurons. In contrast, astroglial substrate greatly accelerated neurodevelopmental processes of hiPSC-derived neurons. We have monitored the neural differentiation and maturation process for up to two months after plating hiPSC-derived neuroprogenitor cells (hNPCs) on laminin or astrocytes. We found that one week after plating hNPCs, there were 21-fold more newly differentiated neurons on astrocytes than on laminin. Two weeks after plating hNPCs, there were 12-fold more dendritic branches in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. Six weeks after plating hNPCs, the Na(+) and K(+) currents, as well as glutamate and GABA receptor currents, were 3-fold larger in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. And two months after plating hNPCs, the spontaneous synaptic events were 8-fold more in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. These results highlight a critical role of astrocytes in promoting neural differentiation and functional maturation of human neurons derived from hiPSCs. Moreover, our data presents a thorough developmental timeline of hiPSC-derived neurons in culture, providing important benchmarks for future studies on disease modeling and drug screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology*