Characterization and application of electrically active neuronal networks established from human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells for neurotoxicity evaluation

Stem Cell Res. 2020 May;45:101761. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2020.101761. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Neurotoxicity is mediated by a variety of modes-of-actions leading to disturbance of neuronal function. In order to screen larger numbers of compounds for their neurotoxic potential, in vitro functional neuronal networks (NN) might be helpful tools. We established and characterized human NN (hNN) from hiPSC-derived neural progenitor cells by comparing hNN formation with two different differentiation media: in presence (CINDA) and absence (neural differentiation medium (NDM)) of maturation-supporting factors. As a NN control we included differentiating rat NN (rNN) in the study. Gene/protein expression and electrical activity from in vitro developing NN were assessed at multiple time points. Transcriptomes of 5, 14 and 28 days in vitro CINDA-grown hNN were compared to gene expression profiles of in vivo human developing brains. Molecular expression analyses as well as measures of electrical activity indicate that NN mature into neurons of different subtypes and astrocytes over time. In contrast to rNN, hNN are less electrically active within the same period of differentiation time, yet hNN grown in CINDA medium develop higher firing rates than hNN without supplements. Challenge of NN with neuronal receptor stimulators and inhibitors demonstrate presence of inhibitory, GABAergic neurons, whereas glutamatergic responses are limited. hiPSC-derived GABAergic hNN grown in CINDA medium might be a useful tool as part of an in vitro battery for assessing neurotoxicity.

Keywords: Cholinergic; Dopaminergic; Electrical activity; In vitro in vivo comparison; MEA; Neuronal network; Neurotoxicology; Stem cell; Transcriptome; hiPSC-NPC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Neural Stem Cells*
  • Neurons
  • Rats