Profiling of experience-regulated proteins in the songbird auditory forebrain using quantitative proteomics.

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Auditory and perceptual processing of songs are required for a number of behaviors in songbirds such as vocal learning, territorial defense, mate selection and individual recognition. These neural processes are accompanied by increased expression of a few transcription factors, particularly in the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM), an auditory forebrain area believed to play a key role in auditory learning and song discrimination. However, these molecular changes are presumably part of a larger, yet uncharacterized, protein regulatory network. In order to gain further insight into this network, we performed two-dimensional differential in-gel expression (2D-DIGE) experiments, extensive protein quantification analyses, and tandem mass spectrometry in the NCM of adult songbirds hearing novel songs. A subset of proteins was selected for immunocytochemistry in NCM sections to confirm the 2D-DIGE findings and to provide additional quantitative and anatomical information. Using these methodologies, we found that stimulation of freely behaving birds with conspecific songs did not significantly impact the NCM proteome 5 min after stimulus onset. However, following 1 and 3 h of stimulation, a significant number of proteins were consistently regulated in NCM. These proteins spanned a range of functional categories that included metabolic enzymes, cytoskeletal molecules, and proteins involved in neurotransmitter secretion and calcium binding. Our findings suggest that auditory processing of vocal communication signals in freely behaving songbirds triggers a cascade of protein regulatory events that are dynamically regulated through activity-dependent changes in calcium levels.





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Pinaud, Raphael, Cristina Osorio, Oscar Alzate and Erich D Jarvis (2008). Profiling of experience-regulated proteins in the songbird auditory forebrain using quantitative proteomics. Eur J Neurosci, 27(6). pp. 1409–1422. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06102.x Retrieved from

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Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment 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 learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.

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