Mar 29, 2020

Estrogen and sex-dependent loss of the vocal learning system in female zebra finches

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
H. N. ChoeErich D Jarvis

Abstract

Sex hormones alter the organization of the brain during early development and coordinate various behaviors throughout life. In zebra finches, song learning is limited to males, and the associated song learning brain pathway only matures in males and atrophies in females. This atrophy can be reversed by giving females exogenous estrogen during early post-hatch development, but whether normal male song system development requires estrogen is uncertain. For the first time in songbirds, we administered exemestane, a potent third generation estrogen synthesis inhibitor, from the day of hatching until adulthood. We examined the behavior, brain, and transcriptome of individual song nuclei of these pharmacologically manipulated animals. We found that males with long-term exemestane treatment had diminished male-specific plumage, impaired song learning, but retained normal song nuclei sizes and most, but not all, of their specialized transcriptome. Consistent with prior findings, females with long-term estrogen treatment retained a functional song system, and we further observed their song nuclei had specialized gene expression profiles similar, but not identical to males. We also observed that different song nuclei responded to estroge...Continue Reading

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