The functional maturation status of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) has a notable impact upon their use in pharmacological studies, disease modeling, and therapeutic applications. Non-cardiomyocytes (non-CMs) produced in the differentiation process have previously been identified as having an extrinsic influence upon hiPSC-CM development, yet the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Herein, we aimed to modulate electrophysiological properties of hiPSC-CMs within co-cultures containing varied proportions of non-CMs and investigate the nature of interactions between these different cell types. Therefore, we sorted cardiac differentiations on day 10 and subsequently replated the cells at ratios of 7:3, 1:1, 3:7, and 1:9 non-CMs to CMs. After a month of co-culture, we evaluated electrophysiological properties through the genetically encoded voltage indicator ArcLight. We ultimately identified that co-cultures with approximately 70%-90% CM purity demonstrated the highest action potential (AP) amplitude and maximum upstroke velocity by day 40 of differentiation, indicative of enhanced electrophysiological maturation, as well as more ventricular-like AP morphologies. Notably, these findings were distinct from those observed for co-cultures of hiPSC-CMs and dermal fibroblasts. We determined that the co-culture phenotypes could not be attributed to paracrine effects of non-CMs due to the inability of conditioned media to recapitulate the observed effects. This led to the further observation of a distinctive expression pattern of connexin 43 (Cx43) at cell-cell interfaces between both CMs and non-CMs. Depletion of Cx43 by short hairpin RNA (shRNA) specifically in the non-CM population within a co-culture environment was able to recapitulate electrophysiological phenotypes of a purer hiPSC-CM population. Collectively, our data demonstrate that abundant non-CM content exerts a significant negative influence upon the electrophysiological maturation of hiPSC-CMs through Cx43-mediated cell-cell-contacts, and thus should be considered regarding the future production of purpose-built hiPSC-CM systems.
- cell interactions
- induced pluripotent stem cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology