Human iPSC-based models highlight defective glial and neuronal differentiation from neural progenitor cells in metachromatic leukodystrophy

Giacomo Frati, Marco Luciani, Vasco Meneghini, Silvia De Cicco, Marcus Ståhlman, Maria Blomqvist, Serena Grossi, Mirella Filocamo, Francesco Morena, Andrea Menegon, Sabata Martino, Angela Gritti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pathological cascade leading from primary storage to neural cell dysfunction and death in metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) has been poorly elucidated in human-derived neural cell systems. In the present study, we have modeled the progression of pathological events during the differentiation of patient-specific iPSCs to neuroepithelial progenitor cells (iPSC-NPCs) and mature neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes at the morphological, molecular, and biochemical level. We showed significant sulfatide accumulation and altered sulfatide composition during the differentiation of MLD iPSC-NPCs into neuronal and glial cells. Changes in sulfatide levels and composition were accompanied by the expansion of the lysosomal compartment, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. The neuronal and glial differentiation capacity of MLD iPSC-NPCs was significantly impaired. We showed delayed appearance and/or reduced levels of oligodendroglial and astroglial markers as well as reduced number of neurons and disorganized neuronal network. Restoration of a functional Arylsulfatase A (ARSA) enzyme in MLD cells using lentiviral-mediated gene transfer normalized sulfatide levels and composition, globally rescuing the pathological phenotype. Our study points to MLD iPSC-derived neural progeny as a useful in vitro model to assess the impact of ARSA deficiency along NPC differentiation into neurons and glial cells. In addition, iPSC-derived neural cultures allowed testing the impact of ARSA reconstitution/overexpression on disease correction and, importantly, on the biology and functional features of human NPCs, with important therapeutic implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number698
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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