Using induced pluripotent stem cells to model glial-neuronal interactions in TDP-43 proteinopathies
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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable late onset neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the specific loss of motor neurones (MNs). It has been recently demonstrated that Transactive response DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) is the dominant disease protein in both ALS and a sub-group of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLDTDP). Moreover, the identification of TARDBP mutations in familial ALS confirms a mechanistic link between the observed mis-accumulation of TDP-43 and neurodegeneration but also provides an opportunity to establish an in vitro platform to model these diseases, based on patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This study presents the optimization of an iPSC-based platform to study the consequences of TDP-43 M337V mutation in human functional populations of MNs and astrocytes in isolation as well as in co-culture. To develop this platform, two protocols to differentiate patient-derived iPSCs into functional MNs and astrocytes were first optimized, and the obtained cellular populations were then used to characterize the behaviour of mutant TDP-43 and its effect on the different cell types. This study show that it is possible to use iPSC-based platforms to recapitulate in vitro key aspects of TDP-43 proteinopathies such as MN cell autonomous toxicity and TDP-43 accumulation, but they can also be used to highlight previously unrecognised disease specific mechanisms and to test novel therapeutic approaches. Moreover, by performing co-culture experiments it was possible to evaluate the effects of M337V astrocytes on the survival of wild-type and M337V TDP-43 motor neurons, showing that mutant TDP-43 astrocytes do not adversely affect survival of co-cultured neurons. This iPSC-based platform represents an in vitro model to study both the effect of somatic mutations on isolated patient-specific cultures, but also to investigate cellular autonomy and neurodegeneration in the context of TDP-43 proteinopathies.