[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Direct conversion of nonneural cells to functional neurons holds great promise for neurological disease modeling and regenerative medicine. We previously reported rapid reprogramming of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) into mature induced neuronal (iN) cells by forced expression of three transcription factors: ASCL1, MYT1L, and BRN2. Here, we show that ASCL1 alone is sufficient to generate functional iN cells from mouse and human fibroblasts and embryonic stem cells, indicating that ASCL1 is the key driver of iN cell reprogramming in different cell contexts and that the role of MYT1L and BRN2 is primarily to enhance the neuronal maturation process. ASCL1-induced single-factor neurons (1F-iN) expressed mature neuronal markers, exhibited typical passive and active intrinsic membrane properties, and formed functional pre- and postsynaptic structures. Surprisingly, ASCL1-induced iN cells were predominantly excitatory, demonstrating that ASCL1 is permissive but alone not deterministic for the inhibitory neuronal lineage.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Direct lineage reprogramming is a promising approach for human disease modeling and regenerative medicine, with poorly understood mechanisms. Here, we reveal a hierarchical mechanism in the direct conversion of fibroblasts into induced neuronal (iN) cells mediated by the transcription factors Ascl1, Brn2, and Myt1l. Ascl1 acts as an "on-target" pioneer factor by immediately occupying most cognate genomic sites in fibroblasts. In contrast, Brn2 and Myt1l do not access fibroblast chromatin productively on their own; instead, Ascl1 recruits Brn2 to Ascl1 sites genome wide. A unique trivalent chromatin signature in the host cells predicts the permissiveness for Ascl1 pioneering activity among different cell types. Finally, we identified Zfp238 as a key Ascl1 target gene that can partially substitute for Ascl1 during iN cell reprogramming. Thus, a precise match between pioneer factors and the chromatin context at key target genes is determinative for transdifferentiation to neurons and likely other cell types.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies suggest that induced neuronal (iN) cells that are directly transdifferentiated from nonneuronal cells provide a powerful opportunity to examine neuropsychiatric diseases. However, the validity of using this approach to examine disease-specific changes has not been demonstrated. Here, we analyze the phenotypes of iN cells that were derived from murine embryonic fibroblasts cultured from littermate wild-type and mutant mice carrying the autism-associated R704C substitution in neuroligin-3. We show that neuroligin-3 R704C-mutant iN cells exhibit a large and selective decrease in AMPA-type glutamate receptor-mediated synaptic transmission without changes in NMDA-type glutamate receptor- or in GABAA receptor-mediated synaptic transmission. Thus, the synaptic phenotype observed in R704C-mutant iN cells replicates the previously observed phenotype of R704C-mutant neurons. Our data show that the effect of the R704C mutation is applicable even to neurons transdifferentiated from fibroblasts and constitute a proof-of-concept demonstration that iN cells can be used for cellular disease modeling.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Available methods for differentiating human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs) into neurons are often cumbersome, slow, and variable. Alternatively, human fibroblasts can be directly converted into induced neuronal (iN) cells. However, with present techniques conversion is inefficient, synapse formation is limited, and only small amounts of neurons can be generated. Here, we show that human ESCs and iPSCs can be converted into functional iN cells with nearly 100% yield and purity in less than 2 weeks by forced expression of a single transcription factor. The resulting ES-iN or iPS-iN cells exhibit quantitatively reproducible properties independent of the cell line of origin, form mature pre- and postsynaptic specializations, and integrate into existing synaptic networks when transplanted into mouse brain. As illustrated by selected examples, our approach enables large-scale studies of human neurons for questions such as analyses of human diseases, examination of human-specific genes, and drug screening.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We and others have reported the successful conversion of human fibroblasts into functional induced neuronal (iN) cells; however the reprogramming efficiencies were very low. Robust reprogramming methods must be developed before iN cells can be used for translational applications such as disease modeling or transplantation-based therapies. Here, we describe a novel approach in which we significantly enhance iN cell conversion efficiency of human fibroblast cells by reprogramming under hypoxic conditions (5% O2). Fibroblasts were derived under high (21%) or low (5%) oxygen conditions and reprogrammed into iN cells using a combination of the four transcription factors BRN2, ASCL1, MYT1L and NEUROD1. An increase in Map2 immunostaining was only observed when fibroblasts experienced an acute drop in the O2 tension upon infection. Interestingly, cells derived and reprogrammed under hypoxic conditions did not produce more iN cells. Approximately 100% of patched cells fire action potentials in low O2 relative to 50% under high O2 growth conditions, confirming the beneficial aspect of reprogramming under low O2. Further characterization showed no significant difference in the intrinsic properties of iN cells reprogrammed in either condition. Surprisingly, the acute drop in oxygen tension did not affect cell proliferation or cell survival and is not synergistic with blockade of GSK3 beta and Smad-mediated pathways. Our results show that lowering the O2 tension at initiation of reprogramming is a simple and efficient manner to enhance the production of iN cells which will facilitate their use for basic discovery and regenerative medicine.
Journal of neuroscience methods 04/2013; · 2.30 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We recently showed that defined sets of transcription factors are sufficient to convert mouse and human fibroblasts directly into cells resembling functional neurons, referred to as "induced neuronal" (iN) cells. For some applications however, it would be desirable to convert fibroblasts into proliferative neural precursor cells (NPCs) instead of neurons. We hypothesized that NPC-like cells may be induced using the same principal approach used for generating iN cells. Toward this goal, we infected mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from Sox2-EGFP mice with a set of 11 transcription factors highly expressed in NPCs. Twenty-four days after transgene induction, Sox2-EGFP(+) colonies emerged that expressed NPC-specific genes and differentiated into neuronal and astrocytic cells. Using stepwise elimination, we found that Sox2 and FoxG1 are capable of generating clonal self-renewing, bipotent induced NPCs that gave rise to astrocytes and functional neurons. When we added the Pou and Homeobox domain-containing transcription factor Brn2 to Sox2 and FoxG1, we were able to induce tripotent NPCs that could be differentiated not only into neurons and astrocytes but also into oligodendrocytes. The transcription factors FoxG1 and Brn2 alone also were capable of inducing NPC-like cells; however, these cells generated less mature neurons, although they did produce astrocytes and even oligodendrocytes capable of integration into dysmyelinated Shiverer brain. Our data demonstrate that direct lineage reprogramming using target cell-type-specific transcription factors can be used to induce NPC-like cells that potentially could be used for autologous cell transplantation-based therapies in the brain or spinal cord.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(7):2527-32. · 9.74 Impact Factor