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J Neurobiol. 1986 May;17(3):231-48.

Neuroeffectors for vocalization in Xenopus laevis: hormonal regulation of sexual dimorphism.


South African clawed frogs use sex-specific vocalizations during courtship. In the male, vocalizations are under the control of gonadal androgen. Though females have moderate levels of circulating androgen, they do not give male-typical mate calls. Both muscles of the vocal organ and neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) vocal pathway are sexually dimorphic and androgen-sensitive. Recent studies suggest that the failure of androgen to masculinize adult females results from a male-specific, androgen-regulated developmental program. At metamorphosis the larynx is sexually monomorphic and feminine in morphology, muscle fiber number and androgen receptor content. During the next six months, under the influence of increasing androgen titers and high receptor levels, myoblasts proliferate in the male and muscle fibers increase at an average rate of 100/day. Females have much lower hormone levels, receptor values decline and they display no net addition of fibers. At metamorphosis, both males and females have approximately 4000 muscle fibers. By adulthood, males have eight times the female fiber number. In the CNS, adult laryngeal motor neurons are more numerous with larger somata and dendritic trees in males than in females. Certain connections of neurons in the vocal pathway are also less robust in females. Unlike the periphery, motor neuron number does not appear to be established by androgen-induced proliferation. Our current hypothesis is that androgen acts at the level of laryngeal muscle to produce more muscle fibers and thus provide more target for motor neurons in the male. This process could regulate cell number by ontogenetic cell death. In the CNS, androgen-target neurons become capable of accumulating hormone shortly before metamorphosis. Androgen receptor in laryngeal motor neurons may permit the dendritic growth characteristic of males by increasing sensitivity to afferent stimuli. Such a process could account for the observed differences in CNS vocal "circuitry" in X. laevis and thus behavioral differences between the sexes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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