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Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2014 Oct 23;2014(12):1284-9. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot084608.

Generation of transgenic zebra finches with replication-deficient lentiviruses.

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Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01655.


Zebra finches have been a rich experimental system for studying neurobiological questions of relevance to human health for decades. In particular, finches are the leading nonhuman model organisms for investigating the biological basis of vocal learning, a critical behavioral substrate for speech acquisition. In addition, zebra finches are an ideal system for the study of brain asymmetry, hormonal control of brain development, physiological function of sleep, sex differences in the brain, behavioral-induced gene expression, and adult neurogenesis, among other questions. Despite their importance for neurobiology, the usefulness of finches as an experimental system has been restricted by a lack of genetic manipulation methods. To overcome this barrier, our laboratory has developed methods for generating transgenic birds, including zebra finches. The successful implementation of this transgenic technology by multiple research laboratories has the potential to dramatically accelerate the progress of our understanding of the genetic basis of complex biological processes such as vocal learning. Moreover, the ability to genetically manipulate zebra finches could also be used to generate novel genetic models for human disorders that cannot be studied elsewhere or that can be more easily studied in this small bird. Here, we describe a protocol to generate transgenic zebra finches using recombinant lentiviruses.

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