Many neurologic and psychiatric disorders are marked by imbalances between neural excitation and inhibition. In the cerebral cortex, inhibition is mediated largely by GABAergic (?-aminobutyric acid-secreting) interneurons, a cell type that originates in the embryonic ventral telencephalon and populates the cortex through long-distance tangential migration. Remarkably, when transplanted from embryos or in vitro culture preparations, immature interneurons disperse and integrate into host brain circuits, both in the cerebral cortex and in other regions of the central nervous system. These features make interneuron transplantation a powerful tool for the study of neurodevelopmental processes such as cell specification, cell death, and cortical plasticity. Moreover, interneuron transplantation provides a novel strategy for modifying neural circuits in rodent models of epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, mood disorders, and chronic pain.
Directed differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has seen significant progress in recent years. However, most differentiated populations exhibit immature properties of an early embryonic stage, raising concerns about their ability to model and treat disease. Here, we report the directed differentiation of hPSCs into medial ganglionic eminence (MGE)-like progenitors and their maturation into forebrain type interneurons. We find that early-stage progenitors progress via a radial glial-like stem cell enriched in the human fetal brain. Both in vitro and posttransplantation into the rodent cortex, the MGE-like cells develop into GABAergic interneuron subtypes with mature physiological properties along a prolonged intrinsic timeline of up to 7 months, mimicking endogenous human neural development. MGE-derived cortical interneuron deficiencies are implicated in a broad range of neurodevelopmental and degenerative disorders, highlighting the importance of these results for modeling human neural development and disease.
The medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) is an embryonic forebrain structure that generates the majority of cortical interneurons. MGE transplantation into specific regions of the postnatal central nervous system modifies circuit function and improves deficits in mouse models of epilepsy, Parkinsons disease, pain, and phencyclidine-induced cognitive deficits. Herein, we describe approaches to generate MGE-like progenitor cells from mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. Using a modified embryoid body method, we provided gene expression evidence that mouse ES-derived Lhx6(+) cells closely resemble immature interneurons generated from authentic MGE-derived Lhx6(+) cells. We hypothesized that enhancers that are active in the mouse MGE would be useful tools in detecting when ES cells differentiate into MGE cells. Here we demonstrate the utility of enhancer elements [422 (DlxI12b), Lhx6, 692, 1056, and 1538] as tools to mark MGE-like cells in ES cell differentiation experiments. We found that enhancers DlxI12b, 692, and 1538 are active in Lhx6-GFP(+) cells, while enhancer 1056 is active in Olig2(+) cells. These data demonstrate unique techniques to follow and purify MGE-like derivatives from ES cells, including GABAergic cortical interneurons and oligodendrocytes, for use in stem cell-based therapeutic assays and treatments.
Female reproductive potential, or the ability to propagate life, is limited in mammals with the majority of oocytes lost before birth. In mice, surviving perinatal oocytes are enclosed in ovarian follicles for subsequent oocyte development and function in the adult. Before birth, fetal germ cells of both sexes develop in clusters, or germline cysts, in the undifferentiated gonad. Upon sex determination of the fetal gonad, germ cell cysts become organized into testicular or ovarian cord-like structures and begin to interact with gonadal somatic cells. Although germline cysts and testicular cords are required for spermatogenesis, the role of cyst and ovarian cord formation in mammalian oocyte development and female fertility has not been determined.
Ten to 15% of couples are infertile, with the most common causes being linked to the production of few or no oocytes or sperm. Yet, our understanding of human germ cell development is poor, at least in part due to the inaccessibility of early stages to genetic and developmental studies. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) provide an in vitro system to study oocyte development and potentially treat female infertility. However, most studies of ESC differentiation to oocytes have not documented fundamental properties of endogenous development, making it difficult to determine the physiologic relevance of differentiated germ cells. Here, we sought to establish fundamental parameters of oocyte development during ESC differentiation to explore suitability for basic developmental genetic applications using the mouse as a model prior to translating to the human system. We demonstrate a timeline of definitive germ cell differentiation from ESCs in vitro that initially parallels endogenous oocyte development in vivo by single-cell expression profiling and analysis of functional milestones including responsiveness to defined maturation media, shared genetic requirement of Dazl, and entry into meiosis. However, ESC-derived oocyte maturation ultimately fails in vitro. To overcome this obstacle, we transplant ESC-derived oocytes into an ovarian niche to direct their functional maturation and, thereby, present rigorous evidence of oocyte physiologic relevance and a potential therapeutic strategy for infertility.
Several reports have documented the derivation of pluripotent cells (multipotent germline stem cells) from spermatogonial stem cells obtained from the adult mouse testis. These spermatogonia-derived stem cells express embryonic stem cell markers and differentiate to the three primary germ layers, as well as the germline. Data indicate that derivation may involve reprogramming of endogenous spermatogonia in culture. Here, we report the derivation of human multipotent germline stem cells (hMGSCs) from a testis biopsy. The cells express distinct markers of pluripotency, form embryoid bodies that contain derivatives of all three germ layers, maintain a normal XY karyotype, are hypomethylated at the H19 locus, and express high levels of telomerase. Teratoma assays indicate the presence of human cells 8 weeks post-transplantation but limited teratoma formation. Thus, these data suggest the potential to derive pluripotent cells from human testis biopsies but indicate a need for novel strategies to optimize hMGSC culture conditions and reprogramming.
Female reproductive potential is limited in the majority of species due to oocyte depletion. Because functional human oocytes are restricted in number and accessibility, a robust system to differentiate oocytes from stem cells would enable a thorough investigation of the genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors affecting human oocyte development. Also, the differentiation of functional oocytes from stem cells may permit the success of human somatic cell nuclear transfer for reprogramming studies and for the production of patient-specific embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Thus, ESC-derived oocytes could ultimately help to restore fertility in women. Here, we review endogenous and ESC-derived oocyte development, and we discuss the potential and challenges for differentiating functional oocytes from ESCs.
In this study, we characterized the promoter activity of a 1.7 kb sequence in the 5 flanking region of the mouse Deleted in Azoospermia-Like (Dazl) gene. We found the 1.7 kb sequence sufficient to drive robust germ cell-specific expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in adult mouse testis and lower levels of expression in adult ovary and in fetal and newborn gonads of both sexes. This expression pattern was confirmed in two independently-derived transgenic mouse lines. In adult testis, Dazl-GFP exhibited a developmentally-regulated, stage-specific expression pattern during spermatogenesis. GFP was highly expressed in spermatocyte stages, with strongest expression in pachytene spermatocytes. Weaker expression was observed in round and elongating spermatids, as well as spermatogonial cells. In the fetal gonad, GFP transcript was detected by e12.5 in both sexes; however, GFP fluorescence was only detected during later embryonic stages. In addition, we produced mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines harboring the Dazl-GFP reporter and used this reporter to isolate putative germ cell populations derived from mouse ESCs following embryoid body differentiation and fluorescence activated cell sorting.
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