The mammalian brain undergoes sexual differentiation by gonadal hormones during the perinatal critical period. However, the machinery at earlier stages has not been well studied. We found that Ptf1a is expressed in certain neuroepithelial cells and immature neurons around the third ventricle that give rise to various neurons in several hypothalamic nuclei. We show that conditional Ptf1a-deficient mice (Ptf1a cKO) exhibit abnormalities in sex-biased behaviors and reproductive organs in both sexes. Gonadal hormone administration to gonadectomized animals revealed that the abnormal behavior is caused by disorganized sexual development of the knockout brain. Accordingly, expression of sex-biased genes was severely altered in the cKO hypothalamus. In particular, Kiss1, important for sexual differentiation of the brain, was drastically reduced in the cKO hypothalamus, which may contribute to the observed phenotypes in the Ptf1a cKO. These findings suggest that forebrain Ptf1a is one of the earliest regulators for sexual differentiation of the brain.
Keywords: Ptf1a; central nervous system; hypothalamus; kisspeptin; sexual behavior; sexual differentiation.
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