[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In vitro stem cell systems traditionally employ oxygen levels that are far removed from the in vivo situation. This study investigates whether an ambient environment containing a physiological oxygen level of 3% (normoxia) enables the generation of neural precursor cells (NPCs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and whether the resultant NPCs can undergo regional specification and functional maturation. We report robust and efficient neural conversion at 3% O(2), demonstration of tri-lineage potential of resultant NPCs and the subsequent electrophysiological maturation of neurons. We also show that NPCs derived under 3% O(2) can be differentiated long term in the absence of neurotrophins and can be readily specified into both spinal motor neurons and midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Finally, modelling the oxygen stress that occurs during transplantation, we demonstrate that in vitro transfer of NPCs from a 20 to 3% O(2) environment results in significant cell death, while maintenance in 3% O(2) is protective. Together these findings support 3% O(2) as a physiologically relevant system to study stem cell-derived neuronal differentiation and function as well as to model neuronal injury.
Cell death and differentiation 01/2011; 18(6):1016-23. · 8.24 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This protocol has been designed to generate neural precursor cells (NPCs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) using a physiological oxygen (O(2)) level of 3% (previously termed hypoxia) and chemically defined conditions. The first stage involves suspension culture of hESC colonies at 3% O(2), where they acquire a neuroepithelial identity over a period of 2 weeks. This timescale is comparable to that observed at 20% O(2), but survival is enhanced. Sequential application of retinoic acid and purmorphamine (PM), from day 14 to day 28, directs differentiation toward spinal motor neurons. Alternatively, addition of fibroblast growth factor-8 and PM generates midbrain dopaminergic neurons. OLIG2 (encoding oligodendrocyte lineage transcription factor 2) induction in motor neuron precursors is twofold greater than that at 20% O(2), whereas EN1 (encoding engrailed homeobox 1) expression is enhanced fivefold. NPCs (at 3% O(2)) can be differentiated into all three neural lineages, and such cultures can be maintained long term in the absence of neurotrophins. The ability to generate defined cell types at 3% O(2) should represent a significant advancement for in vitro disease modeling and potentially for cell-based therapies.