Increasing evidence suggests that neurodevelopmental alterations might contribute to increase the susceptibility to develop neurodegenerative diseases. We investigate the occurrence of developmental abnormalities in dopaminergic neurons in a model of Parkinson's disease (PD). We monitor the differentiation of human patient-specific neuroepithelial stem cells (NESCs) into dopaminergic neurons. Using high-throughput image analyses and single-cell RNA sequencing, we observe that the PD-associated LRRK2-G2019S mutation alters the initial phase of neuronal differentiation by accelerating cell-cycle exit with a concomitant increase in cell death. We identify the NESC-specific core regulatory circuit and a molecular mechanism underlying the observed phenotypes. The expression of NR2F1, a key transcription factor involved in neurogenesis, decreases in LRRK2-G2019S NESCs, neurons, and midbrain organoids compared to controls. We also observe accelerated dopaminergic differentiation in vivo in NR2F1-deficient mouse embryos. This suggests a pathogenic mechanism involving the LRRK2-G2019S mutation, where the dynamics of dopaminergic differentiation are modified via NR2F1.
Keywords: LRRK2; NR2F1; Parkinson's disease; dopaminergic neurons.
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