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Keywords:

  • stem cells;
  • differentiation;
  • electrophysiology

Abstract

We have examined primary human neuronal precursors (HNPs) from 18–22-week-old fetuses. We showed that E-NCAM/MAP2/β-III tubulin-immunoreactive neuronal precursors divide in vitro and could be induced to differentiate into mature neurons in 2 weeks. HNPs did not express nestin and differentiated slowly compared to rodent neuronal restricted precursors (NRPs, 5 days). Immunocytochemical and physiological analyses showed that HNPs could generate a heterogeneous population of neurons that expressed neurofilament-associated protein and various neurotransmitters, neurotransmitter synthesizing enzymes, voltage-gated ion channels, and ligand-gated neurotransmitter receptors and could fire action potentials. Undifferentiated and differentiated HNPs did not coexpress glial markers. Only a subset of cells that expressed GFP under the control of the Tα1 tubulin promoter was E-NCAM/β-III tubulin-immunoreactive, indicating nonexclusive overlap between these two HNP cell populations. Overall, HNPs resemble NRPs isolated from rodent tissue and appear to be a neuronal precursor population. J. Neurosci. Res. 66:356–368, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.