Site-specific retinoic acid production in the brain of adult songbirds.
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The song system of songbirds, a set of brain nuclei necessary for song learning and production, has distinctive morphological and functional properties. Utilizing differential display, we searched for molecular components involved in song system regulation. We identified a cDNA (zRalDH) that encodes a class 1 aldehyde dehydrogenase. zRalDH was highly expressed in various song nuclei and synthesized retinoic acid efficiently. Brain areas expressing zRalDH generated retinoic acid. Within song nucleus HVC, only projection neurons not undergoing adult neurogenesis expressed zRalDH. Blocking zRalDH activity in the HVC of juveniles interfered with normal song development. Our results provide conclusive evidence for localized retinoic acid synthesis in an adult vertebrate brain and indicate that the retinoic acid-generating system plays a significant role in the maturation of a learned behavior.
Molecular Sequence Data
Nerve Tissue Proteins
Sequence Analysis, DNA
Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
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Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Neurobiology
Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal