A molecular neuroethological approach for identifying and characterizing a cascade of behaviorally regulated genes.

Abstract

Songbirds have one of the most accessible neural systems for the study of brain mechanisms of behavior. However, neuroethological studies in songbirds have been limited by the lack of high-throughput molecular resources and gene-manipulation tools. To overcome these limitations, we constructed 21 regular, normalized, and subtracted full-length cDNA libraries from brains of zebra finches in 57 developmental and behavioral conditions in an attempt to clone as much of the brain transcriptome as possible. From these libraries, approximately 14,000 transcripts were isolated, representing an estimated 4,738 genes. With the cDNAs, we created a hierarchically organized transcriptome database and a large-scale songbird brain cDNA microarray. We used the arrays to reveal a set of 33 genes that are regulated in forebrain vocal nuclei by singing behavior. These genes clustered into four anatomical and six temporal expression patterns. Their functions spanned a large range of cellular and molecular categories, from signal transduction, trafficking, and structural, to synaptically released molecules. With the full-length cDNAs and a lentiviral vector system, we were able to overexpress, in vocal nuclei, proteins of representative singing-regulated genes in the absence of singing. This publicly accessible resource http://songbirdtranscriptome.net can now be used to study molecular neuroethological mechanisms of behavior.

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Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1073/pnas.0607098103

Publication Info

Wada, Kazuhiro, Jason T Howard, Patrick McConnell, Osceola Whitney, Thierry Lints, Miriam V Rivas, Haruhito Horita, Michael A Patterson, et al. (2006). A molecular neuroethological approach for identifying and characterizing a cascade of behaviorally regulated genes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 103(41). pp. 15212–15217. 10.1073/pnas.0607098103 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11236.

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Scholars@Duke

Jarvis

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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