Human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes (CMs) (iPSC-CMs) are a promising cell source for myocardial regeneration, disease modeling and drug assessment. However, iPSC-CMs exhibit immature fetal CM-like characteristics that are different from adult CMs in several aspects, including cellular structure and metabolism. As an example, glycolysis is a major energy source for immature CMs. As CMs mature, the mitochondrial oxidative capacity increases, with fatty acid β-oxidation becoming a key energy source to meet the heart’s high energy demand. The immaturity of iPSC-CMs thereby limits their applications. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the energy substrate fatty acid-treated iPSC-CMs exhibit adult CM-like metabolic properties. After 20 days of differentiation from human iPSCs, iPSC-CMs were sequentially cultured with CM purification medium (lactate+/glucose-) for 7 days and maturation medium (fatty acids+/glucose-) for 3–7 days by mimicking the adult CM’s preference of utilizing fatty acids as a major metabolic substrate. The purity and maturity of iPSC-CMs were characterized via the analysis of: (1) Expression of CM-specific markers (e.g., troponin T, and sodium and potassium channels) using RT-qPCR, Western blot or immunofluorescence staining and electron microscopy imaging; and (2) cell energy metabolic profiles using the XF96 Extracellular Flux Analyzer. iPSCs-CMs (98% purity) cultured in maturation medium exhibited enhanced elongation, increased mitochondrial numbers with more aligned Z-lines, and increased expression of matured CM-related genes, suggesting that fatty acid-contained medium promotes iPSC-CMs to undergo maturation. In addition, the oxygen consumption rate (OCR) linked to basal respiration, ATP production, and maximal respiration and spare respiratory capacity (representing mitochondrial function) was increased in matured iPSC-CMs. Mature iPSC-CMs also displayed a larger change in basal and maximum respirations due to the utilization of exogenous fatty acids (palmitate) compared with non-matured control iPSC-CMs. Etomoxir (a carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 inhibitor) but not 2-deoxyglucose (an inhibitor of glycolysis) abolished the palmitate pretreatment-mediated OCR increases in mature iPSC-CMs. Collectively, our data demonstrate for the first time that fatty acid treatment promotes metabolic maturation of iPSC-CMs (as evidenced by enhanced mitochondrial oxidative function and strong capacity of utilizing fatty acids as energy source). These matured iPSC-CMs might be a promising human CM source for broad biomedical application.
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