Effects on differentiation of embryonic ventral midbrain progenitors by Lmx1a, Msx1, Ngn2, and Pitx3.
ABSTRACT: Neurons derived from neural stem cells could potentially be used for cell therapy in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. To achieve controlled differentiation of neural stem cells, we expressed transcription factors involved in the development of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in rat and human neural progenitors. Using retroviral-mediated transgene delivery, we overexpressed Lmx1a (LIM homeobox transcription factor 1, alpha), Msx1 (msh homeobox homolog 1), Ngn2 (neurogenin 2), or Pitx3 (paired-like homeodomain transcription factor 3) in neurospheres derived from embryonic day 14.5 rat ventral mesencephalic progenitors. We also expressed either Lmx1a or Msx1 in the human embryonic midbrain-derived progenitor cell line NGC-407. Rat cells transduced with Ngn2 exited the cell cycle and expressed the neuronal marker microtubule-associated protein 2 and catecholamine-neuron protein vesicular monoamine transporter 2. Interestingly, Pitx3 downregulated the expression of SOX2 (SRY-box containing gene 2) and Nestin, altered cell morphology, but never induced neuronal or glial differentiation. Ngn2 exhibited a strong neuron-inducing effect. In contrast, few Lmx1a-transduced cells matured into neurons, and Msx1 overexpression promoted oligodendrogenesis rather than neuronal differentiation. Importantly, none of these four genes, alone or in combination, enhanced differentiation of rat neural stem cells into dopaminergic neurons. Notably, the overexpression of Lmx1a, but not Msx1, in human neural progenitors increased the yield of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells by threefold. Together, we demonstrate that induced overexpression of transcription factor genes has profound and specific effects on the differentiation of rat and human midbrain progenitors, although few dopamine neurons are generated.
Project description:Identification of optimal transcription factor expression patterns to direct cellular differentiation along a desired pathway presents significant challenges. We demonstrate massively combinatorial screening of temporally-varying mRNA transcription factors to direct differentiation of neural progenitor cells using a dynamically-reconfigurable magnetically-guided spotting technology for localizing mRNA, enabling experiments on millimetre size spots. In addition, we present a time-interleaved delivery method that dramatically reduces fluctuations in the delivered transcription factor copy numbers per cell. We screened combinatorial and temporal delivery of a pool of midbrain-specific transcription factors to augment the generation of dopaminergic neurons. We show that the combinatorial delivery of LMX1A, FOXA2 and PITX3 is highly effective in generating dopaminergic neurons from midbrain progenitors. We show that LMX1A significantly increases TH-expression levels when delivered to neural progenitor cells either during proliferation or after induction of neural differentiation, while FOXA2 and PITX3 increase expression only when delivered prior to induction, demonstrating temporal dependence of factor addition.
Project description:The identification of small molecules capable of directing pluripotent cell differentiation towards specific lineages is highly desirable to both reduce cost, and increase efficiency. Within neural progenitors, LIM homeobox transcription factor 1 alpha (Lmx1a) is required for proper development of roof plate and cortical hem structures of the forebrain, as well as the development of floor plate and midbrain dopaminergic neurons. In this study we generated homologous recombinant cell lines expressing either luciferase or ?-lactamase under the control of the Lmx1a promoter, and used these cell lines to investigate kinase-mediated regulation of Lmx1a activity during neuronal differentiation. A screen of 143 small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors yielded 16 compounds that positively or negatively modulated Lmx1a activity. Inhibition of EGF, VEGF and DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) signaling significantly upregulated Lmx1a activity whereas MEK inhibition strongly downregulated its activity. Quantitative FACS analysis revealed that the DNA-PK inhibitor significantly increased the number of Lmx1a+ progenitors while subsequent qPCR showed an upregulation of Notch effectors, the basic helix-loop-helix genes, Hes5 and Hey1. FACS further revealed that DNA-PK-mediated regulation of Lmx1a+ cells is dependent on the rapamycin-sensitive complex, mTORC1. Interestingly, this DNA-PK inhibitor effect was preserved in a co-culture differentiation protocol. Terminal differentiation assays showed that DNA-PK inhibition shifted development of neurons from forebrain toward midbrain character as assessed by Pitx3/TH immunolabeling and corresponding upregulation of midbrain (En1), but not forebrain (FoxG1) transcripts. These studies show that Lmx1a signaling in mouse embryonic stem cells contributes to a molecular cascade establishing neuronal specification. The data presented here identifies a novel regulatory pathway where signaling from DNA-PK appears to suppress midbrain-specific Lmx1a expression.
Project description:Recent studies have shown evidence for the functional integration of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived ventral midbrain dopamine (vmDA) neurons in animal models of Parkinson's disease. Although these cells present a sustainable alternative to fetal mesencephalic grafts, a number of hurdles require attention prior to clinical translation. These include the persistent use of xenogeneic reagents and challenges associated with scalability and storage of differentiated cells. In this study, we describe the first fully defined feeder- and xenogeneic-free protocol for the generation of vmDA neurons from hPSCs and utilize two novel reporter knock-in lines (LMX1A-eGFP and PITX3-eGFP) for in-depth in vitro and in vivo tracking. Across multiple embryonic and induced hPSC lines, this "next generation" protocol consistently increases both the yield and proportion of vmDA neural progenitors (OTX2/FOXA2/LMX1A) and neurons (FOXA2/TH/PITX3) that display classical vmDA metabolic and electrophysiological properties. We identify the mechanism underlying these improvements and demonstrate clinical applicability with the first report of scalability and cryopreservation of bona fide vmDA progenitors at a time amenable to transplantation. Finally, transplantation of xeno-free vmDA progenitors from LMX1A- and PITX3-eGFP reporter lines into Parkinsonian rodents demonstrates improved engraftment outcomes and restoration of motor deficits. These findings provide important and necessary advancements for the translation of hPSC-derived neurons into the clinic. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2017;6:937-948.
Project description:The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) protein family has previously been shown to be involved in the development of mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons in the murine midbrain. Specifically, Ngn2 and Mash1 are known to have a role in the specification of neural progenitors in the ventricular zone (VZ) of the midbrain towards an mdDA neuronal cell-fate. Furthermore, other members of the bHLH protein family, the E-box factors, are expressed in the developing midbrain and are thought to have a role in neuronal differentiation. Here we show that the E-box factor Tcf12 is implicated in early and late development of mdDA neurons. Tcf12 is expressed in the midbrain and in young TH-expressing mdDA neurons throughout development. Tcf12lox/lox;En1cre/+ embryos, that lose Tcf12 at ~embryonic day (E)9 throughout the En1 expression domain, have a changed spatial expression of Lmx1a and Nurr1 and a consistent loss of rostral TH expression. Expression of the subset marker Ahd2 is initially delayed, but recovers during development, eventually showing an ~10% increase in AHD2-expressing cells at postnatal day (P)30. Tcf12lox/lox;Pitx3cre/+ embryos, that lose Tcf12 at ~E12 in post-mitotic mdDA neurons, show no effect on the amount of TH-expressing neurons in the developing midbrain. However, similar as to Tcf12lox/lox;En1cre/+ embryos, subset specification is delayed during development. Taken together, we have identified Tcf12 as a novel factor in mdDA neuronal development. It serves a dual function; one in early cell-fate commitment of neural progenitors and one late in subset specification.
Project description:Wnts are a family of secreted proteins that regulate multiple steps of neural development and stem cell differentiation. Two of them, Wnt1 and Wnt5a, activate distinct branches of Wnt signaling and individually regulate different aspects of midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neuron development. However, several of their functions and interactions remain to be elucidated. Here, we report that loss of Wnt1 results in loss of Lmx1a and Ngn2 expression, as well as agenesis of DA neurons in the midbrain floor plate. Remarkably, a few ectopic DA neurons still emerge in the basal plate of Wnt1(-/-) mice, where Lmx1a is ectopically expressed. These results indicate that Wnt1 orchestrates DA specification and neurogenesis in vivo. Analysis of Wnt1(-/-);Wnt5a(-/-) mice revealed a greater loss of Nurr1(+) cells and DA neurons than in single mutants, indicating that Wnt1 and Wnt5a interact genetically and cooperate to promote midbrain DA neuron development in vivo. Our results unravel a functional interaction between Wnt1 and Wnt5a resulting in enhanced DA neurogenesis. Taking advantage of these findings, we have developed an application of Wnts to improve the generation of midbrain DA neurons from neural and embryonic stem cells. We thus show that coordinated Wnt actions promote DA neuron development in vivo and in stem cells and suggest that coordinated Wnt administration can be used to improve DA differentiation of stem cells and the development of stem cell-based therapies for Parkinson's disease.
Project description:Cell type-specific surface markers offer a powerful tool for purifying defined cell types for restorative therapies and drug screenings. Midbrain dopaminergic neurons (mesDA) are the nerve cells preferentially lost in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients. Clinical trials of transplantation of fetal neural precursors suggest that cell therapy may offer a cure for this devastating neurological disease. Many lines of preclinical studies demonstrate that neural progenitors committed to dopaminergic fate survive and integrate better than postmitotic DA neurons. We show that the folate-receptor 1 (FolR1), a GPI-anchored cell surface molecule, specifically marks mesDA neural progenitors and immature mesDA neurons. FolR1 expression superimposes with Lmx1a, a bona-fide mesDA lineage marker, during the active phase of mesDA neurogenesis from E9.5 to E14.5 during mouse development, as well as in ESC-derived mesDA lineage. FolR1(+) neural progenitors can be isolated by FACS or magnetic sorting (MAC) which give rise to dopamine neurons expressing TH and Pitx3, whilst FolR1 negative cells generate non-dopaminergic neurons and glia cells. This study identifies FolR1 as a new cell surface marker selectively expressed in mesDA progenitors in vivo and in vitro and that can be used to enrich in vitro differentiated TH neurons.
Project description:Despite the progress in safety and efficacy of cell replacement therapy with pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), the presence of residual undifferentiated stem cells or proliferating neural progenitor cells with rostral identity remains a major challenge. Here we report the generation of a LIM homeobox transcription factor 1 alpha (LMX1A) knock-in GFP reporter human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line that marks the early dopaminergic progenitors during neural differentiation to find reliable membrane protein markers for isolation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Purified GFP positive cells in vitro exhibited expression of mRNA and proteins that characterized and matched the midbrain dopaminergic identity. Further quantitative proteomics analysis of enriched LMX1A+ cells identified several membrane-associated proteins including a polysialylated embryonic form of neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) and contactin 2 (CNTN2), enabling prospective isolation of LMX1A+ progenitor cells. Transplantation of human-PSC-derived purified CNTN2+ progenitors enhanced dopamine release from transplanted cells in the host brain and alleviated Parkinson's disease-related phenotypes in animal models. This study establishes an efficient approach for purification of large numbers of human-PSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors for therapeutic applications.
Project description:Selective degeneration of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons is associated with Parkinson's disease (PD), and thus an in-depth understanding of molecular pathways underlying mDA development will be crucial for optimal bioassays and cell replacement therapy for PD. In this study, we identified a novel Wnt1-Lmx1a autoregulatory loop during mDA differentiation of ESCs and confirmed its in vivo presence during embryonic development. We found that the Wnt1-Lmx1a autoregulatory loop directly regulates Otx2 through the beta-catenin complex and Nurr1 and Pitx3 through Lmx1a. We also found that Lmx1a and Lmx1b cooperatively regulate mDA differentiation with overlapping and cross-regulatory functions. Furthermore, coactivation of both Wnt1 and SHH pathways by exogenous expression of Lmx1a, Otx2, and FoxA2 synergistically enhanced the differentiation of ESCs to mDA neurons. Together with previous works, this study shows that two regulatory loops (Wnt1-Lmx1a and SHH-FoxA2) critically link extrinsic signals to cell-intrinsic factors and cooperatively regulate mDA neuron development.
Project description:To improve the standardization of cell therapies for Parkinson’s disease, methods for the selection and isolation of midbrain dopaminergic progenitors for transplantation are required. To facilitate this we established an expression profile for genes selectively expressed on transplantable midbrain dopaminergic progenitors using microarray analysis. Expression of GFP in the ventral mesencephalon of embryonic E12.5 Ngn2-GFP mice identifies a distinct sub-population of cells containing virtually all of the midbrain dopaminergic progenitors. Gene expression profiles from 3 biological replicates of FACS isolated GFP-positive cells from mouse Ngn2-GFP ventral mesencephalon were generated using microarrays. To reduce the likelihood of identifying transcripts from non-dopaminergic progenitors, 3 biological replicates of FACS isolated GFP-negative cells from mouse Lmx1a-GFP ventral mesencephalon (definitively non-dopaminergic) were used as a reference population.
Project description:Both fetal ventral mesencephalic (VM) and embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived dopamine neurons have been used successfully to correct behavioral responses in animal models of Parkinson's disease. However, grafts derived from fetal VM cells or from ES cells contain multiple cell types, and the majority of these cells are not dopamine neurons. Isolation of ES cell-derived dopamine neurons and subsequent transplantation would both elucidate the capacity of these neurons to provide functional input and also further explore an efficient and safer use of ES cells for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Toward this goal, we used a Pitx3-enhanced green fluorescent protein (Pitx3-eGFP) knock-in mouse blastocyst-derived embryonic stem (mES) cell line and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to select and purify midbrain dopamine neurons. Initially, the dopaminergic marker profile of intact Pitx3-eGFP mES cultures was evaluated after differentiation in vitro. eGFP expression overlapped closely with that of Pitx3, Nurr1, Engrailed-1, Lmx1a, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), l-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (AADC), and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2), demonstrating that these cells were of a midbrain dopamine neuron character. Furthermore, postmitotic Pitx3-eGFP(+) dopamine neurons, which constituted 2%-5% of all live cells in the culture after dissociation, could be highly enriched to >90% purity by FACS, and these isolated neurons were viable, extended neurites, and maintained a dopaminergic profile in vitro. Transplantation to 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats showed that an enriched dopaminergic population could survive and restore both amphetamine- and apomorphine-induced functions, and the grafts contained large numbers of midbrain dopamine neurons, which innervated the host striatum. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.