Fontaine, R., Affaticati, P., Bureau, C., Colin, I., Demarque, M., Dufour, S., Vernier, P., Yamamoto, K., Pasqualini, C. (2015) The Dopaminergic Neurons Controlling Anterior Pituitary Functions: Anatomy and Ontogenesis in Zebrafish. Endocrinology. 156(8):2934-48.
Dopaminergic (DA) neurons located in the preoptico-hypothalamic region of the brain exert a major neuroendocrine control on reproduction, growth and homeostasis by regulating the secretion of anterior pituitary (or adenohypophysis) hormones. Here, using a retrograde tract tracing experiment, we identified the neurons playing this role in the zebrafish. The DA cells projecting directly to the anterior pituitary are localized in the most anteroventral part of the preoptic area, and we named them preoptico-hypophyseal DA (POHDA) neurons. During development, these neurons do not appear before 72 hours post fertilization (hpf) and are the last dopaminergic cell group to differentiate. We found that the number of neurons in this cell population continues to increase life-long, proportionally to the growth of the fish. BrdU incorporation analysis suggested that this increase is due to continuous neurogenesis and not due to a phenotypic change in already existing neurons. Finally, expression profiles of several genes (foxg1a, dlx2a and nr4a2a/b) were different in the POHDA compared to the adjacent suprachiasmatic DA neurons, suggesting that POHDA neurons develop as a distinct DA cell population in the preoptic area. This study offers some insights into the regional identity of the preoptic area and provides the first bases for future functional genetic studies on the development of DA neurons controlling anterior pituitary functions.