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In vitro Neuromuscular Junction Induced from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Chuang-Yu Lin1, Michiko Yoshida1,2, Li-Tzu Li3, Megumu K. Saito1

Abstract

The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a specialized synapse that transmits action potentials from the motor neuron to skeletal muscle for mechanical movement. The architecture of the NMJ structure influences the functions of the neuron, the muscle and the mutual interaction. Previous studies have reported many strategies by co-culturing the motor neurons and myotubes to generate NMJ in vitro with complex induction process and long culture period but have struggled to recapitulate mature NMJ morphology and function. Our in vitro NMJ induction system is constructed by differentiating human iPSC in a single culture dish. By switching the myogenic and neurogenic induction medium for induction, the resulting NMJ contained pre- and post- synaptic components, including motor neurons, skeletal muscle and Schwann cells in the one month culture. The functional assay of NMJ also showed that the myotubes contraction can be triggered by Ca++ then inhibited by curare, an acetylcholine receptor (AChR) inhibitor, in which the stimulating signal is transmitted through NMJ. This simple and robust approach successfully derived the complex structure of NMJ with functional connectivity. This in vitro human NMJ, with its integrated structures and function, has promising potential for studying pathological mechanisms and compound screening.

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