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Sexually dimorphic neuron addition to an avian song-control region is not accounted for by sex differences in cell death


Sexually dimorphic neuron addition to an avian song-control region is not accounted for by sex differences in cell death



Journal of Neurobiology 33(1): 61-71



ISSN/ISBN: 0022-3034

PMID: 9212070

DOI: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4695(199707)33:1<61::aid-neu6>3.0.co;2-b

Only male zebra finches sing, and several brain regions implicated in song behavior exhibit marked sex differences in neuron number. In one region, the high vocal center (HVC), this dimorphism develops because the incorporation of new neurons is greater in males than in females during the first several weeks after hatching. Although estrogen (E-2) exposure stimulates neuron addition in females, it is not known where (E-2 )acts, or to what extent sexual differentiation influences the production, specification, or survival of HVC neurons. In the present study we first reassessed sex and (E-2)-induced differences in cell degeneration within the HVC using the TUNEL technique to identify cells undergoing DNA fragmentation indicative of apoptosis. HVC neuron number, as well as the density and number of TUNEL-labeled and pyknotic cells within the HVC were measured in normal 20- and 30-day-old males and females, and in 30-day-old females implanted with E-2 on posthatch day 18. Although HVC neuron number was greater in males than in females, and was masculinized in E-2 females, no group differences were evident in the absolute number of dying cells. These results indicate that sex differences in cell survival within the HVC do not entirely account for sexually dimorphic neuron addition to this region. Rather, sexual differentiation acts on some HVC neurons before they complete their migration and/or early differentiation. Although the migratory route of HVC neurons is not known, a large number of E-2 receptor-containing cells (ER cells) reside just ventromedial to the HVC and adjacent to the proliferative ventricular zone. Next, we investigated whether these ER cells contribute to early-arising sex differences in HVC neuron addition. By combining (3H)thymidine autoradiography with immunocytochemistry for ERs, we first established that ER-expressing cells are not generated during posthatch sexually dimorphic HVC neuron addition, and thus are not young HVC neurons that transiently express ERs during their migration. Furthermore, in 25-day-old birds we found no sex difference in the density of pyknotic cells among this group of ER cells, suggesting that these cells do not promote the differential survival of HVC neuronal precursors migrating through this region. Rather, ER cells or other cell populations may establish sex differences in HVC neuron number by creating dimorphisms in cellular specification.

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Accession: 009410743

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