The underlying cell types mediating predisposition to obesity remain largely obscure. Here we first integrated recently published single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) data from >380 peripheral and nervous system cell types spanning 19 mouse organs with body mass index (BMI) genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from >450,000 individuals. Leveraging a novel strategy for integrating scRNA-seq data with GWAS data, we identified 22, exclusively neuronal, cell types from the subthalamus, midbrain, hippocampus, thalamus, cortex, pons, medulla, pallidum that were significantly enriched for BMI heritability (P<1.6x10-4). Using genes harboring coding mutations leading to syndromic forms of obesity, we replicate four midbrain cell types from the anterior pretectal nucleus, superior nucleus, periaqueductal gray and pallidum (P<1.7x10-4). Testing an additional set of 347 hypothalamic cell types, ventromedial hypothalamic steroidogenic-factor 1 (SF1) and cholecystokinin b receptor (CCKBR)-expressing neurons (P=4.9x10-5) previously implicated in energy homeostasis and glucose control and three cell types from the preoptic area of the hypothalamus and the lateral hypothalamus enriched for BMI GWAS associations (P<4.9x10-5). Together, our results suggest brain nuclei regulating integration of sensory stimuli, learning and memory are likely to play a key role in obesity and provide testable hypotheses for mechanistic follow-up studies.
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