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Neuroscience. 2008 Nov 11;157(1):132-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.09.005. Epub 2008 Sep 9.

Expression of fragile X mental retardation protein within the vocal control system of developing and adult male zebra finches.

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Program in Neuroscience, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) are cognitively impaired and have marked speech delays and deficits. Our goal was to characterize expression of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), encoded by Fmr1 fragile X mental retardation 1 gene or transcript (FMR1), in an animal model that learns to vocalize, namely the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata (Tgu). We cloned and sequenced the zebra finch ortholog of FMR1 (TguFmr1) and developed an antibody that recognizes TguFmrp specifically. TguFmrp has structural features similar to its human ortholog FMRP. Because FXS patients exhibit sensorimotor deficits, we examined TguFmrp expression prior to, during, and after sensorimotor song learning in zebra finches. We found that TguFmrp is expressed throughout the brain and in four major song nuclei of the male zebra finch brain, primarily in neurons. Additionally, prior to sensorimotor learning, we observed elevated TguFmrp expression in the robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA) of post-hatch day 30 males, compared with the surrounding telencephalon, suggesting a preparation for this stage of song learning. Finally, we observed variable TguFmrp expression in the RA of adolescent and adult males: in some males it was elevated and in others it was comparable to the surrounding telencephalon. In summary, we have characterized the zebra finch ortholog of FMRP and found elevated levels in the premotor nucleus RA at a key developmental stage for vocal learning.

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