Context-dependent regulation of embryonic stem cell differentiation by mGlu4 metabotropic glutamate receptors

Irene Cappuccio, Roberta Verani, Paola Spinsanti, Cristiano Niccolini, Roberto Gradini, Santa Costantino, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Daniela Melchiorri

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The mGlu5 receptor is the only metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype expressed by mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells grown under non-differentiating conditions [Cappuccio, I., Spinanti, P. Porcellini, A., Desiderati, F., De Vita, T., Storto, M., Capobianco, L., Battaglia, G., Nicoletti, F., Melchiorri, D., 2005. Endogenous activation of mGlu5 metabotropic glutamate receptors supports self-renewal of cultured mouse embryonic stem cells. Neuropharmacology 1, 196-205]. We now report that ES cells differentiating into embryoid bodies (EBs) progressively lose mGlu5 receptors and begin to express mGlu4 receptors at both mRNA and proteinc level. A 4-day treatment of EBs with the mGlu4 receptor agonist, l-2-amino-4-phosphonobutanoate (l-AP4), increased mRNA levels of the mesoderm marker, brachyury and the endoderm marker, H19, and decreased the expression of the transcript for the primitive ectoderm marker, fibroblast-growth factor-5 (FGF-5). These effects were prevented by the mGlu4 receptor antagonists, α-methylserine-O-phosphate (MSOP). Plating of EBs for 4 days in vitro in ITSFn medium induced cell differentiation towards a neural lineage, as reflected by the expression of the intermediate filament protein, nestin, and the homeobox protein, Dlx-2. Pharmacological activation of mGlu4 receptors during cell incubation in ITSFn medium increased the expression of both neural markers. Similar results were obtained when neural differentiation was induced by exposure of EBs to retinoic acid. These data suggest that differentiation of cultured ES cells is associated with changes in the expression pattern of mGlu receptors and that activation of mGlu4 receptors affects cell differentiation in a context-dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-611
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006


  • Differentiation
  • Embryoid bodies
  • Metabotropic glutamate receptors subtype4
  • Mouse embryonic stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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