The transcription factor FOXP2 is crucial for the formation and function of cortico-striatal circuits. FOXP2 mutations are associated with specific speech and language impairments. In songbirds, experimentally altered FoxP2 expression levels in the striatal song nucleus Area X impair vocal learning and song production. Overall FoxP2 protein levels in Area X are low in adult zebra finches and decrease further with singing. However, some Area X medium spiny neurons (MSNs) express FoxP2 at high levels (FoxP2(high) MSNs) and singing does not change this. Because Area X receives many new neurons throughout adulthood, we hypothesized that the FoxP2(high) MSNs are newly recruited neurons, not yet integrated into the local Area X circuitry and thus not active during singing. Contrary to our expectation, FoxP2 protein levels did not predict whether new MSNs were active during singing, assayed via immediate early gene expression. However, new FoxP2(high) MSNs had more complex dendrites, higher spine density and more mushroom spines than new FoxP2(low) MSNs. In addition, FoxP2 expression levels correlated positively with nucleus size of new MSNs. Together, our data suggest that dynamic FoxP2 levels in new MSNs shape their morphology during maturation and their incorporation into a neural circuit that enables the maintenance and social modulation of adult birdsong.
500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik::570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie::570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Dynamic FoxP2 levels in male zebra finches are linked to morphology of adult-born Area X medium spiny neurons
Biologie, Chemie, Pharmazie
Institut für Biologie / Arbeitsbereich Verhaltensbiologie & Neurophysiologie