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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2011 Aug 1;173(1):96-104. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.04.026. Epub 2011 May 10.

Estrogenic regulation of dopaminergic neurons in the opportunistically breeding zebra finch.

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  • 1Department of Biology, 1001 East Third St., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Steroid-induced changes in dopaminergic activity underlie many correlations between gonadal hormones and social behaviors. However, the effects of steroid hormones on the various behaviorally relevant dopamine cell groups remain unclear, and ecologically relevant species differences remain virtually unexplored. We examined the effects of estradiol (E2) manipulations on dopamine (DA) neurons of male and female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), focusing on numbers of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive (TH-ir) cells in the A8-A15 cell groups, and on TH colocalization with Fos, conducted in the early A.M., in order to quantify basal transcriptional activity. TH is the rate-limiting enzyme for catecholamine synthesis, and specifically DA in the A8-A15 cell groups. In contrast to other examined birds and mammals, reducing E2 levels with the aromatase-inhibitor Letrozole failed to alter TH-ir neuron numbers within the ventral tegmental area (VTA; A10), while increasing neuron numbers in the central gray (CG; A11) and caudal midbrain A8 populations. Consistent with findings in other birds, but not mammals, we also found no effects of E2 manipulations (Letrozole or Letrozole plus E2 replacement) on TH-Fos colocalization in any location. In accordance with previous observations in both mammals and birds, E2 treatment decreased the number of TH-ir neurons in the A12 population of the tuberal hypothalamus, a cell group that inhibits the release of prolactin. In general, males and females exhibited similar TH-ir neuron numbers, although males exhibited significantly more TH-ir neurons in the A11 CG population than did females. These results suggest partial variability in E2 regulation of DA across species.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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