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Selected Publication:

Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2012

Authors: Fuxjager, MJ; Schultz, JD; Barske, J; Feng, NY; Fusani, L; Mirzatoni, A; Day, LB; Hau, M; Schlinger, BA

Title: Spinal motor and sensory neurons are androgen targets in an acrobatic bird.

Source: Endocrinology (153), 8 3780-3791.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Fusani Leonida

Sex steroids affect the motivation to court mates, but less is known about how they influence motor movements associated with courtship behavior. Steroidal control of motor function may be especially important for species in which courtship requires superior strength, stamina, and neuromuscular coordination. Here we use the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) to examine whether the neuromuscular circuitry that controls motoric aspects of courtship activity is sensitive to androgens. Males of this tropical species attract mates by rapidly jumping among branches in a courtship arena and using their wings to produce loud wing snaps. Testosterone activates this display via the androgen receptor (AR), and past work reveals that manakins injected with radio-labeled T ((3)H-T) accumulate radioactivity in the spinal cord. Thus, we used quantitative PCR to measure AR, estrogen receptor-α (ER-α) subtype, and aromatase (AROM) mRNA in spinal cords of male and female manakins and zebra finches. Expression of AR, but not ER-α or aromatase, was higher throughout the manakin spinal cord compared with the zebra finch. Next, we tested whether AR-expressing skeletal muscles are innervated by motor and sensory neurons that also express AR. To do this, we backfilled spinal neurons by injecting fluorescent tracers into select AR-sensitive wing and leg muscles of wild caught male and female manakins. We then removed these spinal cords and measured AR expression with in situ hybridization. Both sexes showed abundant AR mRNA in the cervical and lumbosacral spinal enlargements as well as in dorsal root ganglia attached to these enlargements. Together our findings suggest that androgens act widely on peripheral motor and sensory circuits in golden-collared manakins to influence wing snapping displays.

Keywords Pubmed: Androgens/metabolism*
Estrogen Receptor alpha/genetics
Estrogen Receptor alpha/metabolism
Muscle, Skeletal/metabolism
Receptors, Androgen/genetics
Receptors, Androgen/metabolism
Sensory Receptor Cells/metabolism*
Sexual Behavior, Animal/physiology
Spinal Cord/metabolism*

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