Lipotype acquisition during neural development is not recapitulated in stem cell-derived neurons

Life Sci Alliance. 2024 Feb 28;7(5):e202402622. doi: 10.26508/lsa.202402622. Print 2024 May.


During development, different tissues acquire distinct lipotypes that are coupled to tissue function and homeostasis. In the brain, where complex membrane trafficking systems are required for neural function, specific glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and cholesterol are highly abundant, and defective lipid metabolism is associated with abnormal neural development and neurodegenerative disease. Notably, the production of specific lipotypes requires appropriate programming of the underlying lipid metabolic machinery during development, but when and how this occurs is unclear. To address this, we used high-resolution MSALL lipidomics to generate an extensive time-resolved resource of mouse brain development covering early embryonic and postnatal stages. This revealed a distinct bifurcation in the establishment of the neural lipotype, whereby the canonical lipid biomarkers 22:6-glycerophospholipids and 18:0-sphingolipids begin to be produced in utero, whereas cholesterol attains its characteristic high levels after birth. Using the resource as a reference, we next examined to which extent this can be recapitulated by commonly used protocols for in vitro neuronal differentiation of stem cells. Here, we found that the programming of the lipid metabolic machinery is incomplete and that stem cell-derived cells can only partially acquire a neural lipotype when the cell culture media is supplemented with brain-specific lipid precursors. Altogether, our work provides an extensive lipidomic resource for early mouse brain development and highlights a potential caveat when using stem cell-derived neuronal progenitors for mechanistic studies of lipid biochemistry, membrane biology and biophysics, which nonetheless can be mitigated by further optimizing in vitro differentiation protocols.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholesterol
  • Glycerophospholipids / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Sphingolipids
  • Cholesterol
  • Glycerophospholipids