We recently developed a technique for generating hypothalamic neurons from human pluripotent stem cells. Here, as proof of principle, we examine the use of these cells in modeling of a monogenic form of severe obesity: PCSK1 deficiency. The cognate enzyme, PC1/3, processes many prohormones in neuroendocrine and other tissues. We generated PCSK1 (PC1/3)-deficient human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines using both short hairpin RNA and CRISPR-Cas9, and investigated pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) processing using hESC-differentiated hypothalamic neurons. The increased levels of unprocessed POMC and the decreased ratios (relative to POMC) of processed POMC-derived peptides in both PCSK1 knockdown and knockout hESC-derived neurons phenocopied POMC processing reported in PC1/3-null mice and PC1/3-deficient patients. PC1/3 deficiency was associated with increased expression of melanocortin receptors and PRCP (prolylcarboxypeptidase, a catabolic enzyme for α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (αMSH)), and reduced adrenocorticotropic hormone secretion. We conclude that the obesity accompanying PCSK1 deficiency may not be primarily due to αMSH deficiency.
Wang, L., Sui, L., Panigrahi, S. K., Meece, K., Xin, Y., Kim, J., … Leibel, R. L. (2017). PC1/3 Deficiency Impacts Pro-opiomelanocortin Processing in Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Hypothalamic Neurons. Stem Cell Reports, 8(2), 264–277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2016.12.021