Asynchronous excitatory neuron development in an isogenic cortical spheroid model of Down syndrome

Front Neurosci. 2022 Sep 7;16:932384. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.932384. eCollection 2022.


The intellectual disability (ID) in Down syndrome (DS) is thought to result from a variety of developmental deficits such as alterations in neural progenitor division, neurogenesis, gliogenesis, cortical architecture, and reduced cortical volume. However, the molecular processes underlying these neurodevelopmental changes are still elusive, preventing an understanding of the mechanistic basis of ID in DS. In this study, we used a pair of isogenic (trisomic and euploid) induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines to generate cortical spheroids (CS) that model the impact of trisomy 21 on brain development. Cortical spheroids contain neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes and they are widely used to approximate early neurodevelopment. Using single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), we uncovered cell type-specific transcriptomic changes in the trisomic CS. In particular, we found that excitatory neuron populations were most affected and that a specific population of cells with a transcriptomic profile resembling layer IV cortical neurons displayed the most profound divergence in developmental trajectory between trisomic and euploid genotypes. We also identified candidate genes potentially driving the developmental asynchrony between trisomic and euploid excitatory neurons. Direct comparison between the current isogenic CS scRNA-seq data and previously published datasets revealed several recurring differentially expressed genes between DS and control samples. Altogether, our study highlights the power and importance of cell type-specific analyses within a defined genetic background, coupled with broader examination of mixed samples, to comprehensively evaluate cellular phenotypes in the context of DS.

Keywords: brain organoids; cerebral organoids; developmental asynchrony; isogenic iPSCs; neuronal motility; scRNA-seq; trisomy.