Generation of highly enriched V2a interneurons from mouse embryonic stem cells

Nisha R. Iyer, James E. Huettner, Jessica C. Butts, Chelsea R. Brown, Shelly E. Sakiyama-Elbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Challenges in parsing specific contributions to spinal microcircuit architecture have limited our ability to model and manipulate those networks for improved functional regeneration after injury or disease. While spinal interneurons (INs) have been implicated in driving coordinated locomotor behaviors, they constitute only a small percentage of the spinal cord and are difficult to isolate from primary tissue. In this study, we employed a genetic strategy to obtain large quantities of highly enriched mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived V2a INs, an excitatory glutamatergic IN population that is defined by expression of the homeodomain protein Chx10 during development. Puromycin N-acetyltransferase expression was driven by the native gene regulatory elements of Chx10 in the transgenic ESC line, resulting in positive selection of V2a INs after induction and treatment with puromycin. Directly after selection, approximately 80% of cells are Chx10+, with 94% Lhx3+; after several weeks, cultures remain free of proliferative cell types and mature into normal glutamatergic neurons as assessed by molecular markers and electrophysiological methods. Functional synapses were observed between selected ESC-derived V2a INs and motor neurons when co-cultured, demonstrating the potential of these cells to form neural networks. While ESC-derived neurons obtained in vitro are not identical to those that develop in the spinal cord, the transgenic ESCs here provide a unique tool to begin studying V2a INs in isolation or for use in in vitro models of spinal microcircuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-316
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Electrophysiology
  • Neuronal differentiation
  • Puromycin selection
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Transcription factor


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