Characterization of the hypothalamus of Xenopus laevis during development. II. The basal regions

J Comp Neurol. 2014 Apr 1;522(5):1102-31. doi: 10.1002/cne.23471.


The expression patterns of conserved developmental regulatory transcription factors and neuronal markers were analyzed in the basal hypothalamus of Xenopus laevis throughout development by means of combined immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization techniques. The connectivity of the main subdivisions was investigated by in vitro tracing techniques with dextran amines. The basal hypothalamic region is topologically rostral to the basal diencephalon and is composed of the tuberal (rostral) and mammillary (caudal) subdivisions, according to the prosomeric model. It is dorsally bounded by the optic chiasm and the alar hypothalamus, and caudally by the diencephalic prosomere p3. The tuberal hypothalamus is defined by the expression of Nkx2.1, xShh, and Isl1, and rostral and caudal portions can be distinguished by the distinct expression of Otp rostrally and Nkx2.2 caudally. In the mammillary region the xShh/Nkx2.1 combination defined the rostral mammillary area, expressing Nkx2.1, and the caudal retromammillary area, expressing xShh. The expression of xLhx1, xDll4, and Otp in the mammillary area and Isl1 in the tuberal region highlights the boundary between the two basal hypothalamic territories. Both regions are strongly connected with subpallial regions, especially those conveying olfactory/vomeronasal information, and also possess abundant intrahypothalamic connections. They show reciprocal connections with the diencephalon (mainly the thalamus), project to the midbrain tectum, and are bidirectionally related to the rhombencephalon. These results illustrate that the basal hypothalamus of anurans shares many features of specification, regionalization, and hodology with amniotes, reinforcing the idea of a basic bauplan in the organization of this prosencephalic region in all tetrapods.

Keywords: amphibians; evolution; forebrain patterning; homology; mammillary region; tuberal hypothalamus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / embryology*
  • Hypothalamus / growth & development*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Xenopus laevis / anatomy & histology
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology
  • Xenopus laevis / growth & development*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid