The cellular and molecular landscape of hypothalamic patterning and differentiation from embryonic to late postnatal development

Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 31;11(1):4360. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18231-z.


The hypothalamus is a central regulator of many innate behaviors essential for survival, but the molecular mechanisms controlling hypothalamic patterning and cell fate specification are poorly understood. To identify genes that control hypothalamic development, we have used single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) to profile mouse hypothalamic gene expression across 12 developmental time points between embryonic day 10 and postnatal day 45. This identified genes that delineated clear developmental trajectories for all major hypothalamic cell types, and readily distinguished major regional subdivisions of the developing hypothalamus. By using our developmental dataset, we were able to rapidly annotate previously unidentified clusters from existing scRNA-Seq datasets collected during development and to identify the developmental origins of major neuronal populations of the ventromedial hypothalamus. We further show that our approach can rapidly and comprehensively characterize mutants that have altered hypothalamic patterning, identifying Nkx2.1 as a negative regulator of prethalamic identity. These data serve as a resource for further studies of hypothalamic development, physiology, and dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Body Patterning
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hypothalamus* / cytology
  • Hypothalamus* / embryology
  • Hypothalamus* / growth & development
  • Hypothalamus* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Thyroid Nuclear Factor 1 / genetics
  • Thyroid Nuclear Factor 1 / metabolism*


  • Nkx2-1 protein, mouse
  • Thyroid Nuclear Factor 1