The hypothalamus is a vital part of the central nervous system that harbours control systems implicated in regulating a wide range of homeostatic processes, including energy balance and reproduction. Structurally, the hypothalamus is a complex neuroendocrine tissue composed of a multitude of unique neuronal cell types that express a number of neuromodulators including hormones, classical neurotransmitters, and specific neuropeptides that play a critical role in mediating hypothalamic function. However, neuropeptide and receptor gene expression, second messenger activation, electrophysiological, and secretory properties of these hypothalamic neurons are not yet fully defined. This is primarily due to the heterogeneity and complex neuronal architecture of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus, making these studies challenging to perform in vivo. To circumvent this problem, our research group has recently generated embryonic- and adult-derived hypothalamic neuronal cell models by utilizing the novel molecular techniques of ciliary neurotrophic factor-induced neurogenesis and SV40 T-Antigen transfer into primary hypothalamic neuronal cell cultures. Significant research has been performed with these cell lines demonstrating their value as a potential tool to conduct molecular genetic analysis of hypothalamic neuronal function. Insights gained from hypothalamic immortalized cells used in conjunction with in vivo models will enhance our understanding of hypothalamic functions such as neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, glucose sensing, energy homeostasis, circadian rhythms, and reproduction. This review discusses the generation and use of hypothalamic cell models to study mechanisms underlying the function of individual hypothalamic neurons and to gain a more complete understanding of the overall physiology of the hypothalamus.
- neuronal cell lines
- glucose sensing
- Copyright © 2010, American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology