Enhanced differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells toward the midbrain dopaminergic neuron lineage through GLYPICAN-4 downregulation

Stem Cells Transl Med. 2021 May;10(5):725-742. doi: 10.1002/sctm.20-0177. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Enhancing the differentiation potential of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) into disease-relevant cell types is instrumental for their widespread application in medicine. Here, we show that hiPSCs downregulated for the signaling modulator GLYPICAN-4 (GPC4) acquire a new biological state characterized by increased hiPSC differentiation capabilities toward ventral midbrain dopaminergic (VMDA) neuron progenitors. This biological trait emerges both in vitro, upon exposing cells to VMDA neuronal differentiation signals, and in vivo, even when transplanting hiPSCs at the extreme conditions of floor-plate stage in rat brains. Moreover, it is compatible with the overall neuronal maturation process toward acquisition of substantia nigra neuron identity. HiPSCs with downregulated GPC4 also retain self-renewal and pluripotency in stemness conditions, in vitro, while losing tumorigenesis in vivo as assessed by flank xenografts. In conclusion, our results highlight GPC4 downregulation as a powerful approach to enhance generation of VMDA neurons. Outcomes may contribute to establish hiPSC lines suitable for translational applications.

Keywords: GLYPICAN-4; hPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons; hiPSCs; intrastriatal transplantation; self-renewal and differentiation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dopaminergic Neurons* / cytology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Glypicans* / genetics
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Mesencephalon
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Rats


  • GPC4 protein, human
  • Glypicans