Assembly of functionally integrated human forebrain spheroids

Nature. 2017 May 4;545(7652):54-59. doi: 10.1038/nature22330. Epub 2017 Apr 26.


The development of the nervous system involves a coordinated succession of events including the migration of GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric-acid-releasing) neurons from ventral to dorsal forebrain and their integration into cortical circuits. However, these interregional interactions have not yet been modelled with human cells. Here we generate three-dimensional spheroids from human pluripotent stem cells that resemble either the dorsal or ventral forebrain and contain cortical glutamatergic or GABAergic neurons. These subdomain-specific forebrain spheroids can be assembled in vitro to recapitulate the saltatory migration of interneurons observed in the fetal forebrain. Using this system, we find that in Timothy syndrome-a neurodevelopmental disorder that is caused by mutations in the CaV1.2 calcium channel-interneurons display abnormal migratory saltations. We also show that after migration, interneurons functionally integrate with glutamatergic neurons to form a microphysiological system. We anticipate that this approach will be useful for studying neural development and disease, and for deriving spheroids that resemble other brain regions to assemble circuits in vitro.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • GABAergic Neurons / cytology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / pathology
  • Long QT Syndrome / genetics
  • Long QT Syndrome / pathology
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Prosencephalon / cytology*
  • Prosencephalon / growth & development*
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Syndactyly / genetics
  • Syndactyly / pathology


  • Glutamic Acid

Supplementary concepts

  • Timothy syndrome