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Selected Publication:

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

Year: 2014

Authors: Fusani, L; Bertolucci, C; Frigato, E; FoĆ , A

Title: Cryptochrome expression in the eye of migratory birds depends on their migratory status.

Source: J Exp Biol. 2014; 217(Pt 6):918-923

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Fusani Leonida

Most passerine birds are nocturnal migrants. When kept in captivity during the migratory periods, these species show a migratory restlessness, or Zugunruhe. Recent studies on Sylvia warblers have shown that Zugunruhe is an excellent proxy of migratory disposition. Passerine birds can use the Earth"s geomagnetic field as a compass to keep their course during their migratory flight. Among the candidate magnetoreceptive mechanisms are the cryptochromes, flavoproteins located in the retina that are supposed to perceive the magnetic field through a light-mediated process. Previous work has suggested that expression of Cryptochrome 1 (Cry1) is increased in migratory birds compared with non-migratory species. Here we tested the hypothesis that Cry1 expression depends on migratory status. Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla were caught before fall migration and held in registration cages. When the birds were showing robust Zugunruhe, we applied a food deprivation protocol that simulates a long migratory flight. When the birds were refed after 2 days, their Zugunruhe decreased substantially, as is expected from birds that would interrupt migration for a refuelling stopover. We found that Cry1 expression was higher at night than during daytime in birds showing Zugunruhe, whereas in birds that underwent the fasting-and-refeeding protocol and reduced their levels of Zugunruhe, night Cry1 expression decreased to daytime levels. Our work shows that Cry1 expression is dependent on the presence of Zugunruhe and not on species-specific or seasonal factors, or on the birds being active versus inactive. These results support the hypothesis that cryptochromes underlie magnetoreceptive mechanisms in birds.

Keywords Pubmed: Animal Migration*
Avian Proteins/genetics*
Avian Proteins/metabolism
Food Deprivation
Gene Expression Regulation*
Molecular Sequence Data
Sequence Analysis, DNA

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