What makes the thyroid gland


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 genetic heterogeneity in the thyrocyte population, and molecularly characterize the non-thyrocyte cells surrounding the follicle, we developed a single-cell transcriptome atlas of the zebrafish thyroid gland. The 6249-cell atlas includes profiles of thyrocytes, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, immune cells including macrophages and fibroblasts.


Further, the thyrocytes could be split into two sub-populations with unique transcriptional signature, including differential expression of the transcription factor pax2a. To validate thyrocyte heterogeneity, we generated a CRISPR/Cas9-based pax2a knock-in line, which demonstrated specific pax2a expression in the thyrocytes. However, a population of pax2a-low mature thyrocytes interspersed within individual follicles could be distinguished, corroborating heterogeneity within the thyrocyte population. Our results identify and validate transcriptional differences within the nominally homogenous thyrocyte population.

The Thyroid Gland Atlas can be explored using an online webtool.

The Atlas was generated in collaboration with Dr. Sabine Costagliola Lab at IRIBHM, ULB, Brussels.