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The estrogen synthesizing enzyme, P450 aromatase, plays a critical role in the regulation of vertebrate sexual behavior. Songbirds differ from other avian species in the distribution and expression of aromatase in the telencephalon. The highest concentration of aromatase in the songbird brain is found in the caudomedial neostriatum (NCM). This area surrounds the only nucleus of the neural song system that contains estrogen receptors, the high vocal center (HVC). It has been suggested that estrogen produced in NCM via aromatization of circulating testosterone (T) is involved in song development and adult song plasticity. The modalities of regulation of aromatase in NCM are not well understood, and some studies suggest that in NCM, unlike in the preoptic-hypothalamic areas, aromatase is not regulated by androgen and/or estrogen. In this work, we studied whether the treatment of female canaries with T, which induces the development of malelike song and the masculinization of the song system, also induces an increase in the expression and activity of aromatase in NCM. Our results show that both the expression and activity of aromatase in NCM increase in female canaries following T treatment. This study provides the first direct evidence that T regulates telencephalic aromatase in songbirds, and suggests that an increase in estrogen production in NCM might be functional in neural and behavioral plasticity during phases of song organization.
Animals Aromatase/blood Aromatase/genetics Aromatase/metabolism* Canaries/physiology* Female Male Neostriatum/drug effects Neostriatum/enzymology* RNA, Messenger/metabolism Reference Values Sex Characteristics Testosterone/pharmacology Testosterone/physiology* Tissue Distribution Vocalization, Animal/drug effects