Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disease affecting the brain. Neurological symptoms like epilepsy and neurodevelopmental issues cause a significant burden on patients. Both neurons and glial cells are affected by TSC mutations. Previous studies have shown changes in the excitation/inhibition balance (E/I balance) in TSC. Astrocytes are known to be important for neuronal development, and astrocytic dysfunction can cause changes in the E/I balance. We hypothesized that astrocytes affect the synaptic balance in TSC. TSC patient-derived stem cells were differentiated into astrocytes, which showed increased proliferation compared to control astrocytes. RNA sequencing revealed changes in gene expression, which were related to epidermal growth factor (EGF) signaling and enriched for genes that coded for secreted or transmembrane proteins. Control neurons were cultured in astrocyte-conditioned medium (ACM) of TSC and control astrocytes. After culture in TSC ACM, neurons showed an altered synaptic balance, with an increase in the percentage of VGAT+ synapses. These findings were confirmed in organoids, presenting a spontaneous 3D organization of neurons and glial cells. To conclude, this study shows that TSC astrocytes are affected and secrete factors that alter the synaptic balance. As an altered E/I balance may underlie many of the neurological TSC symptoms, astrocytes may provide new therapeutic targets.
- astrocyte-conditioned medium
- EGF signaling
- excitation/inhibition balance
- tuberous sclerosis complex