Urotensin-related gene transcripts mark developmental emergence of the male forebrain vocal control system in songbirds

Zachary W. Bell, Peter Lovell, Claudio Mello, Ping K. Yip, Julia M. George, David F. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Songbirds communicate through learned vocalizations, using a forebrain circuit with convergent similarity to vocal-control circuitry in humans. This circuit is incomplete in female zebra finches, hence only males sing. We show that the UTS2B gene, encoding Urotensin-Related Peptide (URP), is uniquely expressed in a key pre-motor vocal nucleus (HVC), and specifically marks the neurons that form a male-specific projection that encodes timing features of learned song. UTS2B-expressing cells appear early in males, prior to projection formation, but are not observed in the female nucleus. We find no expression evidence for canonical receptors within the vocal circuit, suggesting either signalling to other brain regions via diffusion or transduction through other receptor systems. Urotensins have not previously been implicated in vocal control, but we find an annotation in Allen Human Brain Atlas of increased UTS2B expression within portions of human inferior frontal cortex implicated in human speech and singing. Thus UTS2B (URP) is a novel neural marker that may have conserved functions for vocal communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number816
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

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Urotensins
Songbirds
Prosencephalon
Genes
Finches
Singing
Peptides
Equidae
Atlases
Brain
Frontal Lobe
Music
Communication
Neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Urotensin-related gene transcripts mark developmental emergence of the male forebrain vocal control system in songbirds. / Bell, Zachary W.; Lovell, Peter; Mello, Claudio; Yip, Ping K.; George, Julia M.; Clayton, David F.

In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, No. 1, 816, 01.12.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Bell, Zachary W. ; Lovell, Peter ; Mello, Claudio ; Yip, Ping K. ; George, Julia M. ; Clayton, David F. / Urotensin-related gene transcripts mark developmental emergence of the male forebrain vocal control system in songbirds. In: Scientific Reports. 2019 ; Vol. 9, No. 1.
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