Characterization of calcium signals in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived dentate gyrus neuronal progenitors and mature neurons, stably expressing an advanced calcium indicator protein

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Pluripotent stem cell derived human neuronal progenitor cells (hPSC-NPCs) and their mature neuronal cell culture derivatives may efficiently be used for central nervous system (CNS) drug screening, including the investigation of ligand-induced calcium signalization. We have established hippocampal NPC cultures derived from human induced PSCs, which were previously generated by non-integrating Sendai virus reprogramming. Using established protocols these NPCs were differentiated into hippocampal dentate gyrus neurons. In order to study calcium signaling without the need of dye loading, we have stably expressed an advanced calcium indicator protein (GCaMP6fast) in the NPCs using the Sleeping Beauty transposon system. We observed no significant effects of the long-term GCaMP6 expression on NPC morphology, gene expression pattern or neural differentiation capacity. In order to compare the functional properties of GCaMP6-expressing neural cells and the corresponding parental cells loaded with calcium indicator dye Fluo-4, a detailed characterization of calcium signals was performed. We found that the calcium signals induced by ATP, glutamate, LPA, or proteases - were similar in these two systems. Moreover, the presence of the calcium indicator protein allowed for a sensitive, repeatable detection of changes in calcium signaling during the process of neurogenesis and neuronal maturation.Graphical abstractHighlightsThe SB transposon system was used for stable expression of GCaMP6fast in hPSC-NPCs.The phenotype of NPCs was not affected by GCaMP6fast expression.hPSC-NPCs were characterized for ligand-induced calcium signals.Signals of GCaMP6 expressing cells are comparable to their Fluo4 loaded counterparts.GCaMP6 expressing neuronal cultures can be measured repeatedly for calcium transients.

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