Like lactating mammals, male and female ring dove parents increase their food consumption to meet the energetic challenges of provisioning their young. To clarify the neurochemical mechanisms involved, the present study investigated the relationship between parental hyperphagia and changes in activity of the potent orexigen neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the hypothalamus of breeding doves. Changes in NPY-immunoreactive (NPY-ir) cell numbers in the tuberal hypothalamus of male and female doves were examined by immunocytochemistry at six stages of the breeding cycle. Parallel NPY mRNA measurements were recorded in mediobasal hypothalamus (which includes the tuberal hypothalamus) by semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction using 18S rRNA as the internal standard. NPY mRNA changes were also measured in the mediobasal hypothalamus of nonbreeding doves following intracranial administration of prolactin, an orexigenic hormone that is elevated in the plasma of parent doves, and in response to food deprivation, which mimics the negative energy state that develops in parents as they provision their growing young. NPY-ir cell numbers in the tuberal hypothalamus and NPY mRNA levels in the mediobasal hypothalamus were significantly higher in breeding males and females during the period of parental hyperphagia after hatching than during the late incubation period when food intake remains unchanged. In nonbreeding doves, food deprivation and prolactin treatment increased NPY mRNA in this region by two- to three-fold, which suggests that NPY expression is sensitive to hormonal and metabolic signals associated with parenting. We conclude that NPY synthesis is increased in the mediobasal hypothalamus during the posthatching period, which presumably supports increased NPY release and resulting parental hyperphagia. NPY-ir and mRNA were also high in the mediobasal hypothalamus prior to egg laying when food intake remained unchanged. Several lines of evidence suggest that this elevation in NPY supports the increased gonadal activity that accompanies intense courtship and nest building interactions in breeding doves.
- Energy balance
- Hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis
- Neuropeptide Y
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience