Selected Ionotropic Receptors and Voltage-Gated Ion Channels: More Functional Competence for Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC)-Derived Nociceptors

Brain Sci. 2020 Jun 3;10(6):344. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10060344.


Preclinical research using different rodent model systems has largely contributed to the scientific progress in the pain field, however, it suffers from interspecies differences, limited access to human models, and ethical concerns. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) offer major advantages over animal models, i.e., they retain the genome of the donor (patient), and thus allow donor-specific and cell-type specific research. Consequently, human iPSC-derived nociceptors (iDNs) offer intriguingly new possibilities for patient-specific, animal-free research. In the present study, we characterized iDNs based on the expression of well described nociceptive markers and ion channels, and we conducted a side-by-side comparison of iDNs with mouse sensory neurons. Specifically, immunofluorescence (IF) analyses with selected markers including early somatosensory transcription factors (BRN3A/ISL1/RUNX1), the low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (p75), hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels (HCN), as well as high voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) of the CaV2 type, calcium permeable TRPV1 channels, and ionotropic GABAA receptors, were used to address the characteristics of the iDN phenotype. We further combined IF analyses with microfluorimetric Ca2+ measurements to address the functionality of these ion channels in iDNs. Thus, we provide a detailed morphological and functional characterization of iDNs, thereby, underpinning their enormous potential as an animal-free alternative for human specific research in the pain field for unveiling pathophysiological mechanisms and for unbiased, disease-specific personalized drug development.

Keywords: HCN channel; KCC3; TRPV1; analgesic; p75; pain; sensory neuron; synaptic varicosity; voltage-gated calcium channel.