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No small feat: microRNA responses during vocal communication in songbirds.

Mello CV, Lovell PV - BMC Biol. (2011)

Bottom Line: Simply hearing the song produced by another bird of the same species triggers the regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) in high-order auditory parts of the zebra finch brain.Some of the identified miRNAs appear to be unique to birds, possibly to songbirds.These findings, reported in BMC Genomics, highlight the complexities of gene regulation associated with vocal communication and point to possible key regulators of song-triggered gene networks.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA. melloc@ohsu.edu

ABSTRACT
Simply hearing the song produced by another bird of the same species triggers the regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) in high-order auditory parts of the zebra finch brain. Some of the identified miRNAs appear to be unique to birds, possibly to songbirds. These findings, reported in BMC Genomics, highlight the complexities of gene regulation associated with vocal communication and point to possible key regulators of song-triggered gene networks.

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Zebra finch. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), like this adult male, have contributed much to our understanding of the anatomical, physiological, neurochemical, and molecular properties of neural circuits that are involved in the perception, production and learning of birdsong.
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Figure 1: Zebra finch. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), like this adult male, have contributed much to our understanding of the anatomical, physiological, neurochemical, and molecular properties of neural circuits that are involved in the perception, production and learning of birdsong.

Mentions: Immersed in a vast ocean of sounds our brains seek to process and memorize only those sounds that are most relevant to us. Thus, we tend to pay a lot of attention to vocal signals produced by other members of our own species, particularly those that convey information critical to social interaction, reproduction and survival. We are talking, of course, about the sounds that comprise speech and language. Remarkably, only a few animals communicate through a system of vocalizations with characteristics that resemble the complexities and capabilities of human speech. Songbirds (more technically, Passeriformes oscines) represent one such group. They not only communicate through complex vocal signals (songs), but also like humans they learn them through vocal imitation [1]. In many respects this capability mirrors the acquisition of speech in humans, and has made songbirds an exquisite model organism for unraveling the neuronal basis of vocal and speech learning ([2] and references therein). Among the numerous basic insights contributed by songbird research is the demonstration that complex gene networks are rapidly regulated in the brain when songbirds hear song or engage in singing [2]. Microarray studies, in particular, have revealed that song exposure influences the expression of hundreds of genes in the auditory forebrain of the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata ([3] and Lovell and Mello, unpublished observations) (Figure 1). Chief among these, the activity-regulated immediate early genes (IEGs) zenk (also known as zif-268, egr-1 or ngfi-a), fos, jun and arc suggest a dynamic link between the perceptual processing and memorization of birdsong, and underlying transcriptional networks that regulate properties of brain circuits [4,5]. Now, a study by Gunaratne et al. [6] extends these findings, revealing that microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small non-coding RNAs that may serve as control points in transcriptional networks [7,8], are also a major component of the genomic response to song. This study may thus begin to elucidate some of the key regulatory mechanisms that coordinate the genomic response to learned vocal communication signals.


No small feat: microRNA responses during vocal communication in songbirds.

Mello CV, Lovell PV - BMC Biol. (2011)

Zebra finch. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), like this adult male, have contributed much to our understanding of the anatomical, physiological, neurochemical, and molecular properties of neural circuits that are involved in the perception, production and learning of birdsong.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3104949&req=5

Figure 1: Zebra finch. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), like this adult male, have contributed much to our understanding of the anatomical, physiological, neurochemical, and molecular properties of neural circuits that are involved in the perception, production and learning of birdsong.
Mentions: Immersed in a vast ocean of sounds our brains seek to process and memorize only those sounds that are most relevant to us. Thus, we tend to pay a lot of attention to vocal signals produced by other members of our own species, particularly those that convey information critical to social interaction, reproduction and survival. We are talking, of course, about the sounds that comprise speech and language. Remarkably, only a few animals communicate through a system of vocalizations with characteristics that resemble the complexities and capabilities of human speech. Songbirds (more technically, Passeriformes oscines) represent one such group. They not only communicate through complex vocal signals (songs), but also like humans they learn them through vocal imitation [1]. In many respects this capability mirrors the acquisition of speech in humans, and has made songbirds an exquisite model organism for unraveling the neuronal basis of vocal and speech learning ([2] and references therein). Among the numerous basic insights contributed by songbird research is the demonstration that complex gene networks are rapidly regulated in the brain when songbirds hear song or engage in singing [2]. Microarray studies, in particular, have revealed that song exposure influences the expression of hundreds of genes in the auditory forebrain of the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata ([3] and Lovell and Mello, unpublished observations) (Figure 1). Chief among these, the activity-regulated immediate early genes (IEGs) zenk (also known as zif-268, egr-1 or ngfi-a), fos, jun and arc suggest a dynamic link between the perceptual processing and memorization of birdsong, and underlying transcriptional networks that regulate properties of brain circuits [4,5]. Now, a study by Gunaratne et al. [6] extends these findings, revealing that microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small non-coding RNAs that may serve as control points in transcriptional networks [7,8], are also a major component of the genomic response to song. This study may thus begin to elucidate some of the key regulatory mechanisms that coordinate the genomic response to learned vocal communication signals.

Bottom Line: Simply hearing the song produced by another bird of the same species triggers the regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) in high-order auditory parts of the zebra finch brain.Some of the identified miRNAs appear to be unique to birds, possibly to songbirds.These findings, reported in BMC Genomics, highlight the complexities of gene regulation associated with vocal communication and point to possible key regulators of song-triggered gene networks.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA. melloc@ohsu.edu

ABSTRACT
Simply hearing the song produced by another bird of the same species triggers the regulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) in high-order auditory parts of the zebra finch brain. Some of the identified miRNAs appear to be unique to birds, possibly to songbirds. These findings, reported in BMC Genomics, highlight the complexities of gene regulation associated with vocal communication and point to possible key regulators of song-triggered gene networks.

Show MeSH