The development of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) has greatly aided our ability to model neurodegenerative diseases. However, generation of midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons is a major challenge and protocols are variable. Here, we developed a method to differentiate hiPSCs into enriched populations (>80%) of mDA neurons using only small molecules. We confirmed the identity of the mDA neurons using single-cell RNA-sequencing and detection of classical markers. Single-cell live imaging demonstrated neuronal calcium signalling and functional dopamine transport. Electrophysiology measures highlighted the ability to form synapses and networks in culture. Patient-specific hiPSC lines differentiated to produce functional mDA neurons that exhibit the hallmarks of synucleinopathy including: aggregate formation, oxidative stress as well as mitochondrial dysfunction and impaired lysosomal dynamics. In summary, we establish a robust differentiation paradigm to generate enriched mDA neurons from hiPSCs, which can be used to faithfully model key aspects of Parkinson’s disease (PD), providing the potential to further elucidate molecular mechanisms contributing to disease development.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience