Formation and characterisation of neuromuscular junctions between hiPSC derived motoneurons and myotubes.

Research paper by M M Demestre, M M Orth, K J KJ Föhr, K K Achberger, A C AC Ludolph, S S Liebau, T M TM Boeckers

Indexed on: 11 Aug '15Published on: 11 Aug '15Published in: Stem Cell Research


Striated skeletal muscle cells from humans represent a valuable source for in vitro studies of the motoric system as well as for pathophysiological investigations in the clinical settings. Myoblasts can readily be grown from human muscle tissue. However, if muscle tissue is unavailable, myogenic cells can be generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) preferably without genetic engineering. Our study aimed to optimize the generation of hiPSCs derived myogenic cells by employing selection of CD34 positive cells and followed by distinct, stepwise culture conditions. Following the expansion of CD34 positive single cells under myogenic cell culture conditions, serum deprived myoblast-like cells finally fused and formed multinucleated striated myotubes that expressed a set of key markers for muscle differentiation. In addition, these myotubes contracted upon electrical stimulation, responded to acetylcholine (Ach) and were able to generate action potentials. Finally, we co-cultured motoneurons and myotubes generated from identical hiPSCs cell lines. We could observe the early aggregation of acetylcholine receptors in muscle cells of immature co-cultures. At later stages, we identified and characterised mature neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). In summary, we describe here the successful generation of an iPS cell derived functional cellular system consisting of two distinct communicating cells types. This in vitro co-culture system could therefore contribute to research on diseases in which the motoneurons and the NMJ are predominantly affected, such as in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy.