Activity- and BDNF-induced plasticity of miniature synaptic currents in ES cell-derived neurons integrated in a neocortical network.J Neurophysiol 2005; 94(6):4538-43JN
In vitro differentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells have been proposed as potential donor cells for cell replacement therapies of neurodegenerative diseases. The functional synaptic integration of such cells appears conceivable because ES cell-derived neurons are well known to establish excitatory and inhibitory synapses. However, long-term synaptic plasticity, a prerequisite of memory formation, has not yet been demonstrated at these synapses. After in vitro differentiation and purification by immunoisolation, we co-cultured ES cell-derived neurons with neocortical explants, which strongly innervated the ES cell-derived target neurons. ES cell-derived neurons exhibited action potential firing similar to primary cultured neocortical neurons. The formation of glutamatergic synapses was indicated by AMPA receptor-mediated miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (AMPA mEPSCs). In addition, a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated, D-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid-sensitive mEPSC component was observed. We first studied activity-dependent homeostatic plasticity (synaptic scaling) of mEPSCs at glutamatergic synapses. Chronic blockade of action potential activity by TTX resulted in an increase in the amplitudes of AMPA mEPSCs. This indicates that ES cell-derived neurons are capable of a homeostatic regulation of postsynaptic AMPA receptors. In addition, we investigated neurotrophin-induced synaptic plasticity of mEPSCs at glutamatergic synapses. Chronic addition of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF; 100 ng/ml) to the culture medium resulted in an increase in both the frequency and the amplitudes of AMPA mEPSCs. These results suggest that BDNF induces the formation and/or the functional maturation of presynaptic release sites in parallel with an upregulation of postsynaptic AMPA receptors. Thus BDNF represents a potential co-factor that could improve functional synaptic integration of ES cell-derived neurons into neocortical networks.