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Deterministic programming of human pluripotent stem cells into microglia facilitates studying their role in health and disease.

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Gonzalez-Cano, Laura 


Microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS), are derived from yolk-sac macrophages that populate the developing CNS during early embryonic development. Once established, the microglia population is self-maintained throughout life by local proliferation. As a scalable source of microglia-like cells (MGLs), we here present a forward programming protocol for their generation from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). The transient overexpression of PU.1 and C/EBPβ in hPSCs led to a homogenous population of mature microglia within 16 d. MGLs met microglia characteristics on a morphological, transcriptional, and functional level. MGLs facilitated the investigation of a human tauopathy model in cortical neuron-microglia cocultures, revealing a secondary dystrophic microglia phenotype. Single-cell RNA sequencing of microglia integrated into hPSC-derived cortical brain organoids demonstrated a shift of microglia signatures toward a more-developmental in vivo-like phenotype, inducing intercellular interactions promoting neurogenesis and arborization. Taken together, our microglia forward programming platform represents a tool for both reductionist studies in monocultures and complex coculture systems, including 3D brain organoids for the study of cellular interactions in healthy or diseased environments.



brain organoids, microglia, neurodegeneration, reprogramming, stem cells, Cell Differentiation, Central Nervous System, Humans, Macrophages, Microglia, Neurons, Pluripotent Stem Cells

Journal Title

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (PA2369/2-1)