Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) is known to play a role in feeding, nausea, and body weight, with action through the GFRAL-RET receptor complex in the area postrema (AP) and nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). To further elucidate the underlying cell type-specific molecular mechanisms downstream of GDF15 signaling, we used a single nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNAseq) approach to profile AP and NTS cellular subtype-specific transcriptomes after systemic GDF15 treatment.
AP and NTS micropunches were used for snRNAseq from Sprague Dawley rats 6 h following GDF15 or saline injection, and Seurat was used to identify cellular subtypes and cell type-specific alterations in gene expression that were due to the direct and secondary effects of systemic GDF15 treatment.
Using the transcriptome profile of ∼35,000 individual AP/NTS nuclei, we identified 19 transcriptomically distinct cellular subtypes, including a single population Gfral and Ret positive excitatory neurons, representing the primary site of action for GDF15. A total of ∼600 cell type-specific differential expression events were identified in neurons and glia, including the identification of transcriptome alterations specific to the direct effects of GDF15 in the Gfral-Retpositive excitatory neurons and shared transcriptome alterations across neuronal and glial cell types. Downstream analyses identified shared and cell type-specific alterations in signaling pathways and upstream regulatory mechanisms of the observed transcriptome alterations.
These data provide a considerable advance in our understanding of AP and NTS cell type-specific molecular mechanisms associated with GDF15 signaling. The identified cellular subtype-specific regulatory mechanism and signaling pathways likely represent important targets for future pharmacotherapies.