The potential of human mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) including oral stem cells (OSCs) as a cell source to derive functional neurons has been inconclusive. Here we tested a number of human OSCs for their neurogenic potential compared to non-OSCs and employed various neurogenic induction methods. OSCs including dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs), gingiva-derived mesenchymal stem cells (GMSCs), stem cells from apical papilla and non-OSCs including bone marrow MSCs (BMMSCs), foreskin fibroblasts and dermal fibroblasts using non-neurosphere-mediated or neurosphere-mediated methods to guide them toward neuronal lineages. Cells were subjected to RT-qPCR, immunocytofluorescence to detect the expression of neurogenic genes or electrophysiological analysis at final stage of maturation. We found that induced DPSCs and GMSCs overall appeared to be more neurogenic compared to other cells either morphologically or levels of neurogenic gene expression. Nonetheless, of all the neural induction methods employed, only one neurosphere-mediated method yielded electrophysiological properties of functional neurons. Under this method, cells expressed increased neural stem cell markers, nestin and SOX1, in the first phase of differentiation. Neuronal-like cells expressed βIII-tubulin, CNPase, GFAP, MAP-2, NFM, pan-Nav, GAD67, Nav1.6, NF1, NSE, PSD95, and synapsin after the second phase of differentiation to maturity. Electrophysiological experiments revealed that 8.3% of DPSC-derived neuronal cells and 21.2% of GMSC-derived neuronal cells displayed action potential, although no spontaneous excitatory/inhibitory postsynaptic action potential was observed. We conclude that DPSCs and GMSCs have the potential to become neuronal cells in vitro, therefore, these cells may be used as a source for neural regeneration.
Keywords: Action potential; Adult stem cells; Dental pulp stem cells; Electrophysiology; Gingival mesenchymal stem cells; Immunocytofluorescence; NSCs; Neural stem cells; Neurogenesis; Neurons; Neurosphere; OSCs; Oral stem cells; Patch clamp; qPCR.