Acrylamide alters neurotransmitter induced calcium responses in murine ESC-derived and primary neurons

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Stem cell-derived specialized cell types are of interest as an alternative cell system to identify and research neurotoxic effects and modes of action. Developmental toxicity may be studied during differentiation, while organ-specific toxicity may be assessed in fully functional cells, such as neurons. In this study we tested if fully differentiated neurons derived from murine embryonic stem cells (ESCN) could be used to investigate the effects of the well characterized neurotoxic model compound acrylamide (ACR) and if ESCN behave similar to murine primary cortical neurons (pCN) from 16 days old embryos. We characterized the differentiation process of cryopreserved ESC-derived neural precursor cells (NPC) differentiating to ESCN. During the differentiation process (days 11–20) a strong increase in calcium responses to glutamate, acetylcholine and GABA were observed. Moreover, neuron specific marker proteins, β-III-tubulin, MAP2, Tau, Rbfox3 and synaptophysin showed similar patterns to pCN. In ESCN and pCN the neuronal structure, e.g. neurites, was not affected by low concentrations of ACR [0.5–1.6 mM]. However, 24 h incubation periods with 0.5–1.6 mM ACR led to a reduction of acetylcholine and glutamate induced calcium responses. In conclusion, we show that non-cytotoxic concentrations of ACR alter neurotransmission in ESCN as well as pCN.

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