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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 May 24;102(21):7730-5. Epub 2005 May 13.

Sexually dimorphic expression of trkB, a Z-linked gene, in early posthatch zebra finch brain.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Science, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Sexual differentiation of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) neural song circuit is thought to be initiated by sex differences in sex chromosome gene expression in brain cells. One theory is that Z-linked genes, present in the male's ZZ genome at double the dose of females' (ZW), are expressed at higher levels and trigger masculine patterns of development. We report here that trkB (tyrosine kinase receptor B) is Z-linked in zebra finches. trkB is the receptor for neurotrophic factors BDNF and neurotrophin 4, and mediates their influence on neuronal survival, migration, and specification. trkB mRNA is expressed at a higher level in the male telencephalon or whole brain than in corresponding regions of the female in adulthood, and at posthatch day (P) 6, when the song circuit is undergoing sexual differentiation. Moreover, this expression is higher in the song nucleus high vocal center (HVC) than in the surrounding telencephalon at P6, and in males relative to females. In addition, trkB protein is expressed more highly in male than female whole brain at P6. These results establish trkB as a candidate factor that contributes to masculine differentiation of HVC because of its Z-linkage, which leads to sex differences in expression. BDNF is known to be stimulated by estrogen and to be expressed at higher levels in males than females at later ages in HVC. Thus, the trkB-BDNF system may be a focal point for convergent masculinizing influences of Z-linked factors and hormones.

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