- BACKGROUND: Neurospheres (NS) are colonies of neural stem and precursor cells capable of differentiating into the central nervous system (CNS) cell lineages upon appropriate culture conditions: neurons, and glial cells. NS were originally derived from the embryonic and adult mouse striatum subventricular zone. More recently, experimental evidence substantiated the isolation of NS from almost any region of the CNS, including the hypothalamus. METHODOLOGY/FINDINGS: Here we report a protocol that enables to generate large quantities of NS from both fetal and adult rat hypothalami. We found that either FGF-2 or EGF were capable of inducing NS formation from fetal hypothalamic cultures, but that only FGF-2 is effective in the adult cultures. The hypothalamic-derived NS are capable of differentiating into neurons and glial cells and most notably, as demonstrated by immunocytochemical detection with a specific anti-GnRH antibody, the fetal cultures contain cells that exhibit a GnRH phenotype upon differentiation. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This in vitro model should be useful to study the molecular mechanisms involved in GnRH neuronal differentiation.