Electrophysiological properties of pluripotent human and mouse embryonic stem cells

Kai Wang, Tian Xue, Suk Ying Tsang, Rika Van Huizen, Chun Wai Wong, Kevin W. Lai, Zhaohui Ye, Linzhao Cheng, Ka Wing Au, Janet Zhang, Gui Rong Li, Chu Pak Lau, Hung Fat Tse, Ronald A. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) possess promising potential for cell-based therapies, but their electrophysiological properties have not been characterized. Here we describe the presence of ionic currents in mouse (m) and human (h) ESCs and their physiological function. In mESCs, tetraethylammonium (TEA)-sensitive depolarization-activated delayed rectifier K+ currents (IKDR) (8.6 ± 0.9 pA/pF at +40 mV; IC50 = 1.2 ± 0.3 mM), which contained components sensitive to 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) (IC50 = 0.5 ± 0.1 mM) and 100 nM Ca2+- activated K+ current (IKCa) blocker iberiotoxin (IBTX), were detected in 52.3% of undifferentiated cells. IKDR was similarly present in hESCs (∼100%) but with an approximately sixfold higher current density (47.5 ± 7.9 pA/pF at +40 mV). When assayed by bromodeoxyurindine incorporation, application of TEA, 4-AP, or IBTX significantly reduced the proliferation of mESCs and hESCs in a dose-dependent manner (p < .05). A hyperpolarization-activated inward current (Ih) (-2.2 ± 0.4 pA/pF at -120 mV) was detected in 23% of mESCs but not hESCs. Neither Na v nor Cav currents were detected in mESCs and hESCs. Microarray and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analyses identified several candidate genes for the ionic currents discovered. Collectively, our results indicate that pluripotent ESCs functionally express several specialized ion channels and further highlight similarities and differences between the two species. Practical considerations for the therapeutic use of ESCs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1526-1534
Number of pages9
JournalStem Cells
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Electrophysiology
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Ion channels
  • Pluripotency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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