Spontaneous Ca2+ transients drive stem cell proliferation and neurodifferentiation. Deciphering the relationship between neuronal and glial human genes on one side and spontaneous Ca2+ activity on the other side is essential for our understanding of normal brain development, and for insights into the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. In the present study, forebrain neurons were derived from human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells (hESC-H9 and iPSC-15; 22q11.2 deletion) over a period of 21 days in vitro (DIV). Every 1–2 days, multisite optical imaging technique was applied to detect populations of cells with spontaneous Ca2+ transients. The expression levels of 14 genes of interest were analyzed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on the same biological samples where physiological recordings were performed. The genes analyzed include: the schizophrenia candidate gene ERBB4, connexin (Cx) genes Cx26, Cx36, Cx43, Cx45, Cx47, pannexin-1 (PNX1), neuronal markers PAX6, vGLUT1, GAD1, TUBB3, glial lineage markers BLBP, GFAP, and housekeeping gene ACTB. We found that Ca2+ signals decrease in amplitude, decrease in duration, and increase in frequency during the first 21 days of human neurodifferentiation. The expression levels of ERBB4, PAX6, GAD1, vGLUT1, BLBP, Cx36, Cx45, and PNX1 were found to be strongly positively correlated with the percentage of cells exhibiting spontaneous Ca2+ transients (“Active Cells”). While expression of BLBP, Cx45, ERBB4, GAD1, PAX6, PNX1, and vGLUT1 were correlated with short-duration and long-amplitude Ca2+ transients, Cx43, TUBB3, and Cx47 were better correlated with long-duration and short-amplitude transients. The expression dynamics of Cx26 was unrelated to any aspect of spontaneous Ca2+ activity. Four genes showed an exponential time course with a distinct onset on a given DIV. The onset of PNX1, ERBB4, and vGLUT1 occurred before, while the onset of Cx36 occurred after the first action potentials were detected in early differentiating human neurons.
Part of the book: Pluripotent Stem Cells