Alzheimer's disease-related amyloid-β induces synaptotoxicity in human iPS cell-derived neurons

Cell Death Dis. 2015 Apr 2;6(4):e1709. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2015.72.


Human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons have been proposed to be a highly valuable cellular model for studying the pathomechanisms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Studies employing patient-specific human iPSCs as models of familial and sporadic forms of AD described elevated levels of AD-related amyloid-β (Aβ). However, none of the present AD iPSC studies could recapitulate the synaptotoxic actions of Aβ, which are crucial early events in a cascade that eventually leads to vast brain degeneration. Here we established highly reproducible, human iPSC-derived cortical cultures as a cellular model to study the synaptotoxic effects of Aβ. We developed a highly efficient immunopurification procedure yielding immature neurons that express markers of deep layer cortical pyramidal neurons and GABAergic interneurons. Upon long-term cultivation, purified cells differentiated into mature neurons exhibiting the generation of action potentials and excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory GABAergic synapses. Most interestingly, these iPSC-derived human neurons were strongly susceptible to the synaptotoxic actions of Aβ. Application of Aβ for 8 days led to a reduction in the overall FM4-64 and vGlut1 staining of vesicles in neurites, indicating a loss of vesicle clusters. A selective analysis of presynaptic vesicle clusters on dendrites did not reveal a significant change, thus suggesting that Aβ impaired axonal vesicle clusters. In addition, electrophysiological patch-clamp recordings of AMPA receptor-mediated miniature EPSCs revealed an Aβ-induced reduction in amplitudes, indicating an impairment of postsynaptic AMPA receptors. A loss of postsynaptic AMPA receptor clusters was confirmed by immunocytochemical stainings for GluA1. Incubation with Aβ for 8 days did not result in a significant loss of neurites or cell death. In summary, we describe a highly reproducible cellular AD model based on human iPSC-derived cortical neurons that enables the mechanistic analysis of Aβ-induced synaptic pathomechanisms and the development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Synapses / drug effects*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • MAPT protein, human
  • tau Proteins