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Behav Brain Res. 2013 Jan 15;237:318-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.09.023. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

Social status, breeding state, and GnRH soma size in convict cichlids (Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9, Canada.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) expressing neurons in the preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus plays a key role in regulating reproductive function through the control of gonadotropin release. Several studies have illustrated the importance of the social environment in modulating the size of GnRH expressing neurons. In the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, the size of the soma of GnRH expressing neurons in the POA varies with social status in males, and with breeding state in females. Territorial males have larger GnRH+ cells than non-territorial males, while brooder females have smaller GnRH+ cells than control females. The lek-like breeding system of A. burtoni is, however, only one type of social system within the diverse assemblage of cichlids. To gain a better understanding of GnRH neuronal plasticity in response to the changes in the social environment, we tested whether similar effects occur in the monogamous New World cichlid, the convict cichlid (Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus), a model species for the study of social behaviour. Our results indicate that, indeed GnRH expressing neuron soma size, and not cell number, varies with both male territorial status, and manipulations of female breeding state in this monogamous, biparental, New World cichlid.

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