Dopamine receptors in a songbird brain.

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2010-03-15

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Abstract

Dopamine is a key neuromodulatory transmitter in the brain. It acts through dopamine receptors to affect changes in neural activity, gene expression, and behavior. In songbirds, dopamine is released into the striatal song nucleus Area X, and the levels depend on social contexts of undirected and directed singing. This differential release is associated with differential expression of activity-dependent genes, such as egr1 (avian zenk), which in mammalian brain are modulated by dopamine receptors. Here we cloned from zebra finch brain cDNAs of all avian dopamine receptors: the D1 (D1A, D1B, D1D) and D2 (D2, D3, D4) families. Comparative sequence analyses of predicted proteins revealed expected phylogenetic relationships, in which the D1 family exists as single exon and the D2 family exists as spliced exon genes. In both zebra finch and chicken, the D1A, D1B, and D2 receptors were highly expressed in the striatum, the D1D and D3 throughout the pallium and within the mesopallium, respectively, and the D4 mainly in the cerebellum. Furthermore, within the zebra finch, all receptors, except for D4, showed differential expression in song nuclei relative to the surrounding regions and developmentally regulated expression that decreased for most receptors during the sensory acquisition and sensorimotor phases of song learning. Within Area X, half of the cells expressed both D1A and D2 receptors, and a higher proportion of the D1A-only-containing neurons expressed egr1 during undirected but not during directed singing. Our findings are consistent with hypotheses that dopamine receptors may be involved in song development and social context-dependent behaviors.

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10.1002/cne.22255

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Kubikova, Lubica, Kazuhiro Wada and Erich D Jarvis (2010). Dopamine receptors in a songbird brain. J Comp Neurol, 518(6). pp. 741–769. 10.1002/cne.22255 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9310.

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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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