Direct Conversion of Human Fibroblasts into Neuronal Restricted Progenitors [Cell Biology]

January 2nd, 2014 by Zou, Q., Yan, Q., Zhong, J., Wang, K., Sun, H., Yi, X., Lai, L.

Neuronal restricted progenitors (NRPs) represent a type of transitional intermediate cells that lie between multipotent neural progenitors (NPs) and terminal differentiated neurons during neurogenesis. These NRPs have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into neurons, but not into glial cells, which is considered as an advantage for cellular therapy of human neurodegenerative diseases. However, difficulty in the extraction of highly purified NPRs from normal nervous tissue prevents further studies and applications. In this study, we reported conversion of human fetal fibroblasts into human induced neuronal restricted progenitors (hiNRPs) in eleven days by using just three defined factors: Sox2, c-Myc, and either Brn2 or Brn4. The hiNRPs exhibited distinct neuronal characteristics, including cell morphology, multiple neuronal markers expression, self-renewal capacity, and genome-wide transcriptional profile. Moreover, hiNRPs were able to differentiate into various terminal neurons with functional membrane properties, but not glial cells. Direct generation of hiNRPs from somatic cells will provide a new source of cells for cellular replacement therapy of human neurodegenerative diseases.