• bone marrow;
  • brain derived neurotrophic factor;
  • calcium signaling;
  • dopamine;
  • mesenchymal stem cells;
  • RE-1 silencing factor


The generation of dopamine (DA) neurons from stem cells holds great promise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neural disease associated with dysfunction of DA neurons. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from the adult bone marrow show plasticity with regards to generating cells of other germ layers. In addition to reduced ethical concerns, MSCs could be transplanted across allogeneic barriers, making them desirable stem cells for clinical applications. We have reported on the generation of DA cells from human MSCs using sonic hedgehog (SHH), fibroblast growth factor 8 and basic fibroblast growth factor. Despite the secretion of DA, the cells did not show evidence of functional neurons, and were therefore designated DA progenitors. Here, we report on the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the maturation of the MSC-derived DA progenitors. 9-day induced MSCs show significant tropomyosin-receptor-kinase B expression, which correlate with its ligand, BDNF, being able to induce functional maturation. The latter was based on Ca2+ imaging analyses and electrophysiology. BDNF-treated cells showed the following: increases in intracellular Ca2+ upon depolarization and after stimulation with the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and GABA and, post-synaptic currents by electrophysiological analyses. In addition, BDNF induced increased DA release upon depolarization. Taken together, these results demonstrate the crucial role for BDNF in the functional maturation of MSC-derived DA progenitors.