Because neurons are difficult to obtain from humans, generating functional neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) is important for establishing physiological or disease-relevant screening systems for drug discovery. To examine the culture conditions leading to efficient differentiation of functional neural cells, we investigated the effects of oxygen stress (2% or 20% O2) and differentiation medium (DMEM/F12:Neurobasal-based [DN] or commercial [PhoenixSongs Biologicals; PS]) on the expression of genes related to neural differentiation, glutamate receptor function, and the formation of networks of neurons differentiated from hiPSCs (201B7) via long-term self-renewing neuroepithelial-like stem (lt-NES) cells. Expression of genes related to neural differentiation occurred more quickly in PS and/or 2% O2 than in DN and/or 20% O2, resulting in high responsiveness of neural cells to glutamate, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA), α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA), and (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (an agonist for mGluR1/5), as revealed by calcium imaging assays. NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors, mGluR1, and mGluR5 were functionally validated by using the specific antagonists MK-801, NBQX, JNJ16259685, and 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)-pyridine, respectively. Multielectrode array analysis showed that spontaneous firing occurred earlier in cells cultured in 2% O2 than in 20% O2. Optimization of O2 tension and culture medium for neural differentiation of hiPSCs can efficiently generate physiologically relevant cells for screening systems.
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