TGFβ3, dibutyryl cAMP and a notch inhibitor modulate phenotype late in stem cell-derived dopaminergic neuron maturation

Shanti Sibuea, Joan K. Ho, Colin W. Pouton, John M. Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The generation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons (mDAs) from pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) holds much promise for both disease modelling studies and as a cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Generally, dopaminergic neuron differentiation paradigms rely on inhibition of smad signalling for neural induction followed by hedgehog signalling and an elevation of β-catenin to drive dopaminergic differentiation. Post-patterning, differentiating dopaminergic neuron cultures are permitted time for maturation after which the success of these differentiation paradigms is usually defined by expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate limiting enzyme in the synthesis of dopamine. However, during maturation, culture media is often supplemented with additives to promote neuron survival and or promote cell differentiation. These additives include dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP), transforming growth factor β3 (TGFβ3) and or the γ-secretase inhibitor (DAPT). While these factors are routinely added to cultures, their impact upon pluripotent stem cell-derived mDA phenotype is largely unclear. In this study, we differentiate pluripotent stem cells toward a dopaminergic phenotype and investigate how the omission of dbcAMP, TGFβ3 or DAPT, late in maturation, affects the regulation of multiple dopaminergic neuron phenotype markers. We now show that the removal of dbcAMP or TGFβ3 significantly and distinctly impacts multiple markers of the mDA phenotype (FOXA2, EN1, EN2, FOXA2, SOX6), while commonly increasing both MSX2 and NEUROD1 and reducing expression of both tyrosine hydroxylase and WNT5A. Removing DAPT significantly impacted MSX2, OTX2, EN1, and KCNJ6. In the absence of any stressful stimuli, we suggest that these culture additives should be viewed as mDA phenotype-modifying, rather than neuroprotective. We also suggest that their addition to cultures is likely to confound the interpretation of both transplantation and disease modelling studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1111705
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • DAPT (PubChem: 5311272)
  • dibutyryl cAMP
  • human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)
  • midbrain dopaminergic neurons
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • transforming growth factor–beta

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