Hugo J R Fernandes, Nikolaos Patikas, Stefanie Foskolou, Sarah F Field, Jong-Eun Park, Meg L Byrne, Andrew R Bassett, Emmanouil Metzakopian
The advent of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons has revolutionized Parkinson’s disease (PD) research, but single-cell transcriptomic analysis suggests unresolved cellular heterogeneity within these models. Here, we perform the largest single-cell transcriptomic study of human iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons to elucidate gene expression dynamics in response to cytotoxic and genetic stressors. We identify multiple neuronal subtypes with transcriptionally distinct profiles and differential sensitivity to stress, highlighting cellular heterogeneity in dopamine in vitro models. We validate this disease model by showing robust expression of PD GWAS genes and overlap with postmortem adult substantia nigra neurons. Importantly, stress signatures are ameliorated using felodipine, an FDA-approved drug. Using isogenic SNCA-A53T mutants, we find perturbations in glycolysis, cholesterol metabolism, synaptic signaling, and ubiquitin-proteasomal degradation. Overall, our study reveals cell type-specific perturbations in human dopamine neurons, which will further our understanding of PD and have implications for cell replacement therapies.