Journal article Open Access

Intrinsically Active and Pacemaker Neurons in Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Neuronal Populations

Illes, Sebastian; Jakab, Martin; Beyer, Felix; Gelfert, Renate; Couillard-Despres, Sébastien; Schnitzler, Alfons; Ritter, Markus; Aigner, Ludwig

Neurons generated from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) self-organize into functional neuronal assemblies in vitro, generating synchronous network activities. Intriguingly, PSC-derived neuronal assemblies develop spontaneous activities that are independent of external stimulation, suggesting the presence of thus far undetected intrinsically active neurons (IANs). Here, by using mouse embryonic stem cells, we provide evidence for the existence of IANs in PSC-neuronal networks based on extracellular multielectrode array and intracellular patch-clamp recordings. IANs remain active after pharmacological inhibition of fast synaptic communication and possess intrinsic mechanisms required for autonomous neuronal activity. PSC-derived IANs are functionally integrated in PSC-neuronal populations, contribute to synchronous network bursting, and exhibit pacemaker properties. The intrinsic activity and pacemaker properties of the neuronal subpopulation identified herein may be particularly relevant for interventions involving transplantation of neural tissues. IANs may be a key element in the regulation of the functional activity of grafted as well as preexisting host neuronal networks.

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