Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 375, Issue 1, pp 5–22 | Cite as

Anatomy, development, and plasticity of the neurosecretory hypothalamus in zebrafish

  • Jatin Nagpal
  • Ulrich Herget
  • Min K. Choi
  • Soojin RyuEmail author


The paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus harbors diverse neurosecretory cells with critical physiological roles for the homeostasis. Decades of research in rodents have provided a large amount of information on the anatomy, development, and function of this important hypothalamic nucleus. However, since the hypothalamus lies deep within the brain in mammals and is difficult to access, many questions regarding development and plasticity of this nucleus still remain. In particular, how different environmental conditions, including stress exposure, shape the development of this important nucleus has been difficult to address in animals that develop in utero. To address these open questions, the transparent larval zebrafish with its rapid external development and excellent genetic toolbox offers exciting opportunities. In this review, we summarize recent information on the anatomy and development of the neurosecretory preoptic area (NPO), which represents a similar structure to the mammalian PVN in zebrafish. We will then review recent studies on the development of different cell types in the neurosecretory hypothalamus both in mouse and in fish. Lastly, we discuss stress-induced plasticity of the PVN mainly discussing the data obtained in rodents, but pointing out tools and approaches available in zebrafish for future studies. This review serves as a primer for the currently available information relevant for studying the development and plasticity of this important brain region using zebrafish.


Hypothalamus Paraventricular nucleus Zebrafish Stress 



anterior commissure


adrenocorticotropic hormone


agouti-related protein


α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid–glutamate receptor agonist


anterior periventricular nucleus


arcuate nucleus


aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator-2


aristaless-related homeodomain transcription factor


arginine vasopressin


basic helix loop helix




corticotropin-releasing hormone




distal less homeodomain transcription factor


dorsomedial hypothalamus


evolutionarily conserved region in the enhancer




forebrain embryonic zinc finger-like protein






hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis


interrenal gland


islet-1 homeodomain transcription factor


leucine enkephalin


lateral hypothalamic area


mammillary area


Methionine enkephalin


Melanocyte-stimulating hormone


Metronidazole (drug for nitroreductase cell ablation system)


N-methyl-d-aspartate–glutamate receptor agonist


neurosecretory preoptic area/preoptic nucleus




optic chiasm


Orthopedia homeodomain transcription factor




proenkephalin a


proenkephalin b




magnocellular preoptic nucleus


parvocellular neuroendocrine cells


preoptic area


postoptic commissure




anterior parvocellular preoptic nucleus


posterior parvocellular preoptic nucleus


posterior tuberculum




paraventricular nucleus




single minded-1


suprachiasmatic nucleus


supraoptic nucleus


supraoptoparaventricular region


1 somatostatin


steroidogenic acute regulatory protein




optic tectum




thyrotropin-releasing hormone


vasoactive intestinal peptide


ventromedial hypothalamus



This study was funded by the Max Planck Society, the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the German Federal Office for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) grant number 01GQ1404 to S.R., and German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) SPP1926 Next Generation Optogenetics grant to S.R.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Resilience CenterUniversity Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.Division of Biology and Biological EngineeringCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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