Despite their opposing actions on food intake, POMC and NPY/AgRP neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) are derived from the same progenitors that give rise to ARH neurons. However, the mechanism whereby common neuronal precursors subsequently adopt either the anorexigenic (POMC) or the orexigenic (NPY/AgRP) identity remains elusive. We hypothesize that POMC and NPY/AgRP cell fates are specified and maintained by distinct intrinsic factors. In search of them, we profiled the transcriptomes of developing POMC and NPY/AgRP neurons in mice. Moreover, cell-type-specific transcriptomic analyses revealed transcription regulators that are selectively enriched in either population, but whose developmental functions are unknown in these neurons. Among them, we found the expression of the PR domain-containing factor 12 (Prdm12) was enriched in POMC neurons but absent in NPY/AgRP neurons. To study the role of Prdm12 in vivo, we developed and characterized a floxed Prdm12 allele. Selective ablation of Prdm12 in embryonic POMC neurons led to significantly reduced Pomc expression as well as early-onset obesity in mice of either sex that recapitulates symptoms of human POMC deficiency. Interestingly, however, specific deletion of Prdm12 in adult POMC neurons showed that it is no longer required for Pomc expression or energy balance. Collectively, these findings establish a critical role for Prdm12 in the anorexigenic neuron identity and suggest that it acts developmentally to program body weight homeostasis. Finally, the combination of cell-type-specific genomic and genetic analyses provides a means to dissect cellular and functional diversity in the hypothalamus whose neurodevelopment remains poorly studied.
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