• amniocyte;
  • amniotic fluid cell;
  • differentiation;
  • neuronal;
  • stem cell

Amniotic fluid is known to yield a number of cell types which are multipotent, ethically derived, genetically stable, easily grown, expanded and possess favourable immunogenicity, which has resulted in an increasing interest for use in various neuronal disorders such as Parkinson's disease. The neuronal potential of cells derived from the adherent fraction of amniotic fluid, routinely taken by amniocentesis, are least explored. The aim of the present study was to investigate the capacity of these cells for neuronal and dopaminergic differentiation using in vitro differentiation protocols with canonical inductive factors not previously tested. To do this, samples derived from multiple donors were grown under four conditions: standard serum-containing media, NB (neurobasal) media designed specifically for propagation and maintenance of neuronal cells, NB media with addition of retinoic acid and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) for NI (neuronal induction), and NB media with addition of FGF8 (fibroblast growth factor-8) and Shh (sonic hedgehog) after NI. Our results showed the presence of multiple neuronal markers after growth in serum-containing medium [TUJ1, MAP2, NF-M, TH (tyrosine hydroxylase)], which was significantly up-regulated after serum withdrawal in NB medium alone with induction of NeuN (neuronal nuclei) and NSE (neuron-specific enolase). NI and DA.I (dopaminergic induction) was accompanied by further increases in expression and a distinct transition to a sustained neuronal morphology. Western blot analysis confirmed increasing TH expression and NURR1, expressed in base serum-containing media, found to be down-regulated after induction. In conclusion, these cells possess a highly favourable base neuronal and dopaminergic prepotential, which may easily be accentuated by standard induction protocols.