Photoperiodic induced changes in reproductive state of border canaries (Serinus canaria) are associated with marked variation in hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone immunoreactivity and the volume of song control regions

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-2686, USA.
General and Comparative Endocrinology (Impact Factor: 2.47). 06/2008; 158(1):10-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2008.05.011
Source: PubMed


In temperate zone songbirds, such as canaries (Serinus canaria), seasonal variation in gonadal activity and behavior are associated with marked brain changes. These include gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) expression and the volume of brain areas controlling song production. Questions have been raised about the consistency of seasonal brain changes in canaries. Laboratory studies of the American singer strain raised doubts as to whether this strain exhibits a robust photoperiodic response along with changes in brain GnRH content, and studies of free-living canaries have failed to identify seasonal changes in volume of song control nuclei. We assessed differences in brain GnRH and the song control system associated with photoperiod-induced variation in reproductive state in Border canaries. We found that males and females maintained for 10 weeks on long days (14L:10D) regress their gonads, exhibit a decline in testosterone and initiate molt; a response consistent with the onset of absolute photorefractoriness (i.e., failed to respond to previously stimulating daylengths). All birds regained photosensitivity (i.e., exhibited gonadal response to stimulating daylengths) after experiencing short days (8L:16D) for 6 weeks. Furthermore, comparisons of birds in either a photosensitive, photostimulated, or photorefractory state revealed a marked increase in GnRH protein expression in the photosensitive and photostimulated birds over photorefractory birds. A similar variation was observed in the volume of key forebrain song nuclei. Thus, Border canaries demonstrate measurable neuroplasticity in response to photoperiodic manipulations. These data, along with previous work on other strains of canaries, indicate the presence of intra-specific variation in photoperiodically regulated neuroplasticity.

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    • "controls. This finding is consistent with a growing literature based on studies of male songbirds indicating that song nuclei can start growing prior to gonads increasing in size and sex steroid hormone concentrations reaching their maxima (e.g., Tramontin and Brenowitz, 2000; Caro et al., 2005; Hurley et al., 2008). The song nuclei HVC and RA in photosensitive female starlings seem to be able to grow, albeit with a relatively small effect size, even when the birds are on short days. "
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    ABSTRACT: European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) exhibit seasonal changes in singing and in the volumes of the neural substrate. Increases in song nuclei volume are mediated at least in part by increases in day length, which is also associated with increases in plasma testosterone (T), reproductive activity, and singing behavior in males. The correlations between photoperiod (i.e. daylength), T, reproductive state and singing hamper our ability to disentangle causal relationships. We investigated how photoperiodic-induced variation in reproductive state modulates the effects of T on singing behavior and song nuclei volumes in adult female starlings. Female Starlings do not naturally produce measureable levels of circulating T but nevertheless respond to exogenous T, which induces male-like singing. We manipulated photoperiod by placing birds in a photosensitive or photorefractory state and then treated them with T-filled or empty silastic implants. We recorded morning singing behavior for three weeks, after which we assessed reproductive condition and measured song nuclei volumes. We found that T-treated photosensitive birds sang significantly more than all other groups including T-treated photorefractory birds. All T-treated birds had larger song nuclei volumes than with blank-treated birds (despite photorefractory T-treated birds not increasing song-rate). There was no effect of photoperiod on the song nuclei volumes of T-treated birds. These data show that the behavioral effects of exogenous T can be modulated by reproductive state in adult female songbirds. Furthermore, these data are consistent with other observations that increases in singing rate in response to T are not necessarily due to the direct effects of T on song nuclei volume. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Hormones and Behavior
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    • "(C) Representative songs from each treatment group. 2001; Hurley et al., 2008 "
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    ABSTRACT: Variation in environmental factors such as day length and social context greatly affects reproductive behavior and the brain areas that regulate these behaviors. One such behavior is song in songbirds, which males use to attract a mate during the breeding season. In these species the absence of a potential mate leads to an increase in the number of songs produced, while the presence of a mate greatly diminishes singing. Interestingly, although long days promote song behavior, producing song itself can promote the incorporation of new neurons in brain regions controlling song output. Social context can also affect such neuroplasticity in these song control nuclei. The goal of the present study was to investigate in canaries (Serinus canaria), a songbird species, how photoperiod and social context affect song and the incorporation of new neurons, as measured by the microtubule-associated protein doublecortin (DCX) in HVC, a key vocal production brain region of the song control system. We show that long days increased HVC size and singing activity. In addition, male canaries paired with a female for 2 weeks showed enhanced DCX-immunoreactivity in HVC relative to birds housed alone. Strikingly, however, paired males sang fewer songs that exhibited a reduction in acoustic features such as song complexity and energy, compared with birds housed alone, which sang prolifically. These results show that social presence plays a significant role in the regulation of neural and behavioral plasticity in songbirds and can exert these effects in opposition to what might be expected based on activity-induced neurogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · European Journal of Neuroscience
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    • "The American singer strain seems to have lost over the course of domestication the native responsiveness to photoperiod that is maintained in the Border strain. In general though it appears based on a comparison of these two strains that gonadal regression is associated with a marked decline in POA GnRH1 (Bentley et al., 2003a; Hurley et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone 1 (GnRH1) is a key regulator of the reproductive neuroendocrine system in vertebrates. Recent developments have suggested that GnRH1 neurons exhibit far greater plasticity at the cellular and molecular levels than previously thought. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that sub-populations of GnRH1 neurons in the preoptic area are highly responsive to specific environmental and hormonal conditions. In this paper we discuss findings that reveal large variation in GnRH1 mRNA and protein expression that are regulated by social cues, photoperiod, and hormonal feedback. We draw upon studies using histochemistry and immediate early genes (e.g., c-FOS/ZENK) to illustrate that specific groups of GnRH1 neurons are topographically organized. Based on data from diverse vertebrate species, we suggest that GnRH1 expression within individuals is temporally dynamic and this plasticity may be evolutionarily conserved. We suggest that the plasticity observed in other neuropeptide systems (i.e. kisspeptin) may have evolved in a similar manner.
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