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Journal: Cell stem cell


Structural and transcriptional changes during early brain maturation follow fixed developmental programs defined by genetics. However, whether this is true for functional network activity remains unknown, primarily due to experimental inaccessibility of the initial stages of the living human brain. Here, we developed human cortical organoids that dynamically change cellular populations during maturation and exhibited consistent increases in electrical activity over the span of several months. The spontaneous network formation displayed periodic and regular oscillatory events that were dependent on glutamatergic and GABAergic signaling. The oscillatory activity transitioned to more spatiotemporally irregular patterns, and synchronous network events resembled features similar to those observed in preterm human electroencephalography. These results show that the development of structured network activity in a human neocortex model may follow stable genetic programming. Our approach provides opportunities for investigating and manipulating the role of network activity in the developing human cortex.


Bone marrow vascular niches sustain hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and are drastically remodeled in leukemia to support pathological functions. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells produce angiogenic factors, which likely contribute to this remodeling, but anti-angiogenic therapies do not improve AML patient outcomes. Using intravital microscopy, we found that AML progression leads to differential remodeling of vasculature in central and endosteal bone marrow regions. Endosteal AML cells produce pro-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic cytokines and gradually degrade endosteal endothelium, stromal cells, and osteoblastic cells, whereas central marrow remains vascularized and splenic vascular niches expand. Remodeled endosteal regions have reduced capacity to support non-leukemic HSCs, correlating with loss of normal hematopoiesis. Preserving endosteal endothelium with the small molecule deferoxamine or a genetic approach rescues HSCs loss, promotes chemotherapeutic efficacy, and enhances survival. These findings suggest that preventing degradation of the endosteal vasculature may improve current paradigms for treating AML.

Concepts: Angiogenesis, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Hematology, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Hematopoietic stem cell


Neural stem cell (NSC) transplantation can influence immune responses and suppress inflammation in the CNS. Metabolites, such as succinate, modulate the phenotype and function of immune cells, but whether and how NSCs are also activated by such immunometabolites to control immunoreactivity and inflammatory responses is unclear. Here, we show that transplanted somatic and directly induced NSCs ameliorate chronic CNS inflammation by reducing succinate levels in the cerebrospinal fluid, thereby decreasing mononuclear phagocyte (MP) infiltration and secondary CNS damage. Inflammatory MPs release succinate, which activates succinate receptor 1 (SUCNR1)/GPR91 on NSCs, leading them to secrete prostaglandin E2 and scavenge extracellular succinate with consequential anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, our work reveals an unexpected role for the succinate-SUCNR1 axis in somatic and directly induced NSCs, which controls the response of stem cells to inflammatory metabolic signals released by type 1 MPs in the chronically inflamed brain.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Monocyte, Central nervous system, Neuron, Stem cell, Neurogenesis, Anti-inflammatory


In vitro generation of functional gametes is a promising approach for treating infertility, although faithful replication of meiosis has proven to be a substantial obstacle to deriving haploid gamete cells in culture. Here we report complete in vitro meiosis from embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived primordial germ cells (PGCLCs). Co-culture of PGCLCs with neonatal testicular somatic cells and sequential exposure to morphogens and sex hormones reproduced key hallmarks of meiosis, including erasure of genetic imprinting, chromosomal synapsis and recombination, and correct nuclear DNA and chromosomal content in the resulting haploid cells. Intracytoplasmic injection of the resulting spermatid-like cells into oocytes produced viable and fertile offspring, showing that this robust stepwise approach can functionally recapitulate male gametogenesis in vitro. These findings provide a platform for investigating meiotic mechanisms and the potential generation of human haploid spermatids in vitro.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Chromosome, Meiosis, Chromosomal crossover, Gamete, Germ cells, Germ cell


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive clonal disorder of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and primitive progenitors that blocks their myeloid differentiation, generating self-renewing leukemic stem cells (LSCs). Here, we show that the mRNA m6A reader YTHDF2 is overexpressed in a broad spectrum of human AML and is required for disease initiation as well as propagation in mouse and human AML. YTHDF2 decreases the half-life of diverse m6A transcripts that contribute to the overall integrity of LSC function, including the tumor necrosis factor receptor Tnfrsf2, whose upregulation in Ythdf2-deficient LSCs primes cells for apoptosis. Intriguingly, YTHDF2 is not essential for normal HSC function, with YTHDF2 deficiency actually enhancing HSC activity. Thus, we identify YTHDF2 as a unique therapeutic target whose inhibition selectively targets LSCs while promoting HSC expansion.


Pluripotent stem cells are defined by their capacity to differentiate into all three tissue layers that comprise the body. Chimera formation, generated by stem cell transplantation to the embryo, is a stringent assessment of stem cell pluripotency. However, the ability of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to form embryonic chimeras remains in question. Here we show using a stage-matching approach that human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the capacity to participate in normal mouse development when transplanted into gastrula-stage embryos, providing in vivo functional validation of hPSC pluripotency. hiPSCs and hESCs form interspecies chimeras with high efficiency, colonize the embryo in a manner predicted from classical developmental fate mapping, and differentiate into each of the three primary tissue layers. This faithful recapitulation of tissue-specific fate post-transplantation underscores the functional potential of hPSCs and provides evidence that human-mouse interspecies developmental competency can occur.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Recent studies have aimed to convert cultured human pluripotent cells to a naive state, but it remains unclear to what extent the resulting cells recapitulate in vivo naive pluripotency. Here we propose a set of molecular criteria for evaluating the naive human pluripotent state by comparing it to the human embryo. We show that transcription of transposable elements provides a sensitive measure of the concordance between pluripotent stem cells and early human development. We also show that induction of the naive state is accompanied by genome-wide DNA hypomethylation, which is reversible except at imprinted genes, and that the X chromosome status resembles that of the human preimplantation embryo. However, we did not see efficient incorporation of naive human cells into mouse embryos. Overall, the different naive conditions we tested showed varied relationships to human embryonic states based on molecular criteria, providing a backdrop for future analysis of naive human pluripotency.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Embryo, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Chromosome, Pluripotency


The link between Zika virus (ZIKV) infection and microcephaly has raised urgent global alarm. The historical African ZIKV MR766 was recently shown to infect cultured human neural precursor cells (NPCs), but unlike the contemporary ZIKV strains, it is not believed to cause microcephaly. Here we investigated whether the Asian ZIKV strain SZ01 could infect NPCs in vivo and affect brain development. We found that SZ01 replicates efficiently in embryonic mouse brain by directly targeting different neuronal linages. ZIKV infection leads to cell-cycle arrest, apoptosis, and inhibition of NPC differentiation, resulting in cortical thinning and microcephaly. Global gene expression analysis of infected brains reveals upregulation of candidate flavirus entry receptors and dysregulation of genes associated with immune response, apoptosis, and microcephaly. Our model provides evidence for a direct link between Zika virus infection and microcepahly, with potential for further exploration of the underlying mechanisms.

Concepts: Immune system, Nervous system, DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Bacteria, Developmental biology, Infection


Derivation of patient-specific human pluripotent stem cells via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has the potential for applications in a range of therapeutic contexts. However, successful SCNT with human cells has proved challenging to achieve, and thus far has only been reported with fetal or infant somatic cells. In this study, we describe the application of a recently developed methodology for the generation of human ESCs via SCNT using dermal fibroblasts from 35- and 75-year-old males. Our study therefore demonstrates the applicability of SCNT for adult human cells and supports further investigation of SCNT as a strategy for regenerative medicine.

Concepts: Genetics, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cloning, Somatic cell nuclear transfer, Somatic cell


Human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) exist in naive and primed states and provide important models to investigate the earliest stages of human development. Naive cells can be obtained through primed-to-naive resetting, but there are no reliable methods to prospectively isolate unmodified naive cells during this process. Here we report comprehensive profiling of cell surface proteins by flow cytometry in naive and primed human PSCs. Several naive-specific, but not primed-specific, proteins were also expressed by pluripotent cells in the human preimplantation embryo. The upregulation of naive-specific cell surface proteins during primed-to-naive resetting enabled the isolation and characterization of live naive cells and intermediate cell populations. This analysis revealed distinct transcriptional and X chromosome inactivation changes associated with the early and late stages of naive cell formation. Thus, identification of state-specific proteins provides a robust set of molecular markers to define the human PSC state and allows new insights into the molecular events leading to naive cell resetting.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Stem cell, Chromosome, Cell biology