Proliferative hypothalamic neurospheres express NPY, AGRP, POMC, CART and Orexin-A and differentiate to functional neurons

PLoS One. 2011 May 11;6(5):e19745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019745.


Some pathological conditions with feeding pattern alterations, including obesity and Huntington disease (HD) are associated with hypothalamic dysfunction and neuronal cell death. Additionally, the hypothalamus is a neurogenic region with the constitutive capacity to generate new cells of neuronal lineage, in adult rodents. The aim of the present work was to evaluate the expression of feeding-related neuropeptides in hypothalamic progenitor cells and their capacity to differentiate to functional neurons which have been described to be affected by hypothalamic dysfunction. Our study shows that hypothalamic progenitor cells from rat embryos grow as floating neurospheres and express the feeding-related neuropeptides Neuropeptide Y (NPY), Agouti-related Protein (AGRP), Pro-OpioMelanocortin (POMC), Cocaine-and-Amphetamine Responsive Transcript (CART) and Orexin-A/Hypocretin-1. Moreover the relative mRNA expression of NPY and POMC increases during the expansion of hypothalamic neurospheres in proliferative conditions.Mature neurons were obtained from the differentiation of hypothalamic progenitor cells including NPY, AGRP, POMC, CART and Orexin-A positive neurons. Furthermore the relative mRNA expression of NPY, CART and Orexin-A increases after the differentiation of hypothalamic neurospheres. Similarly to the adult hypothalamic neurons the neurospheres-derived neurons express the glutamate transporter EAAT3. The orexigenic and anorexigenic phenotype of these neurons was identified by functional response to ghrelin and leptin hormones, respectively. This work demonstrates the presence of appetite-related neuropeptides in hypothalamic progenitor cells and neurons obtained from the differentiation of hypothalamic neurospheres, including the neuronal phenotypes that have been described by others as being affected by hypothalamic neurodegeneration. These in vitro models can be used to study hypothalamic progenitor cells aiming a therapeutic intervention to mitigate feeding dysfunction that are associated with hypothalamic neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Orexins
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • AGRP protein, rat
  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins
  • cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript protein
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin