Molecular and functional diversity among region-specific astrocytes is of great interest in basic neuroscience and the study of neurological diseases. In this study, we present the generation and characterization of astrocytes from human embryonic stem cells with the characteristics of the ventral midbrain (VM). Fine modulation of WNT and SHH signaling during neural differentiation induced neural precursor cells (NPCs) with high expression of EN1 and NKX6.1, but less expression of FOXA2. Overexpression of nuclear factor IB in NPCs induced astrocytes, thereby maintaining the expression of region-specific genes acquired in the NPC stage. When cocultured with dopaminergic (DA) precursors or DA neurons, astrocytes with VM characteristics (VM-iASTs) promoted the differentiation and survival of DA neurons better than those that were not regionally specified. Transcriptomic analysis showed that VM-iASTs were more closely related to human primary midbrain astrocytes than to cortical astrocytes, and revealed the upregulation of WNT1 and WNT5A, which supports their VM identity and explains their superior activity in DA neurons. Taken together, we hope that VM-iASTs can serve to improve ongoing DA precursor transplantation for Parkinson's disease, and that their transcriptomic data provide a valuable resource for investigating regional diversity in human astrocyte populations.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Dopaminergic neurons; Transcriptome; Ventral midbrain; WNT signal.
© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.