Single-cell transcriptome analysis reveals thyrocyte diversity in the zebrafish thyroid gland

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Pierre Gillotay - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Meghna Shankar - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Benoit Haerlingen - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Eski Sema Elif - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Macarena Pozo-Morales - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Ines Garteizgogeascoa - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Susanne Reinhardt - , DRESDEN-concept Genome Center (CMCB Core Facility) (Author)
  • Annekathrin Krankel - , Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Juliane Blasche - , Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Andreas Petzold - , DRESDEN-concept Genome Center (CMCB Core Facility) (Author)
  • Nikolay Ninov - , Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (Author)
  • Gokul Kesavan - , Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, Cluster Excellence Phys Life PoL (Author)
  • Christian Lange - , Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Michael Brand - , Chair of Molecular Developmental Genetics, Cluster Excellence Phys Life PoL (Author)
  • Anne Lefort - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Frederick Libert - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Vincent Detours - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Sabine Costagliola - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)
  • Singh Sumeet Pal - , Université libre de Bruxelles (Author)


The thyroid gland regulates growth and metabolism via production of thyroid hormone in follicles composed of thyrocytes. So far, thyrocytes have been assumed to be a homogenous population. To uncover heterogeneity in the thyrocyte population and molecularly characterize the non-thyrocyte cells surrounding the follicle, we developed a single-cell transcriptome atlas of the region containing the zebrafish thyroid gland. The 6249-cell atlas includes profiles of thyrocytes, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, immune cells, and fibroblasts. Further, the thyrocytes show expression heterogeneity, including bimodal expression of the transcription factor pax2a. To validate thyrocyte heterogeneity, we generated a CRISPR/Cas9-based pax2a knock-in line that monitors pax2a expression in the thyrocytes. A population of pax2a-low mature thyrocytes interspersed in individual follicles can be distinguished. We corroborate heterogeneity within the thyrocyte population using RNA sequencing of pax2a-high and pax2a-low thyrocytes, which demonstrates 20% differential expression in transcriptome between the two subpopulations. Our results identify and validate transcriptional differences within the presumed homogenous thyrocyte population.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere50612
Number of pages20
JournalEMBO reports
Issue number12
Early online dateNov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020

External IDs

PubMed 33140917
Scopus 85096754777
ORCID /0000-0001-9599-8632/work/142241753


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards


  • Crispr, Cas9, Cell, Heterogeneity, Single&#8208, Thyroid gland, Zebrafish

Library keywords