Astrocytes influence neuronal maturation and function by providing trophic support, regulating the extracellular environment, and modulating signaling at synapses. The emergence of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology offers a human system with which to validate and re-evaluate insights from animal studies. Here, we set out to examine interactions between human astrocytes and neurons derived from a common cortical progenitor pool, thereby recapitulating aspects of in vivo cortical development. We show that the cortical iPSC-derived astrocytes exhibit many of the molecular and functional hallmarks of astrocytes. Furthermore, optogenetic and electrophysiological co-culture experiments reveal that the iPSC-astrocytes can actively modulate ongoing synaptic transmission and exert pro-maturational effects upon developing networks of iPSC-derived cortical neurons. Finally, transcriptomic analyses implicate synapse-associated extracellular signaling in the astrocytes' pro-maturational effects upon the iPSC-derived neurons. This work helps lay the foundation for future investigations into astrocyte-to-neuron interactions in human health and disease.
Stem Cell Reports
astrocyte-neuron interactions, astrocytes, co-culture, gliotransmission, induced pluripotent stem cells, optogenetics, synaptic maturation