Expression of reelin, its receptors and its intracellular signaling protein, Disabled1 in the canary brain: Relationships with the song control system

J. Balthazart, C. Voigt, G. Boseret, G. F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Songbirds produce learned vocalizations that are controlled by a specialized network of neural structures, the song control system. Several nuclei in this song control system demonstrate a marked degree of adult seasonal plasticity. Nucleus volume varies seasonally based on changes in cell size or spacing, and in the case of nucleus HVC and area X on the incorporation of new neurons. Reelin, a large glycoprotein defective in reeler mice, is assumed to determine the final location of migrating neurons in the developing brain. In mammals, reelin is also expressed in the adult brain but its functions are less well characterized. We investigated the relationships between the expression of reelin and/or its receptors and the dramatic seasonal plasticity in the canary (Serinus canaria) brain. We detected a broad distribution of the reelin protein, its mRNA and the mRNAs encoding for the reelin receptors (VLDLR and ApoER2) as well as for its intracellular signaling protein, Disabled1. These different mRNAs and proteins did not display the same neuroanatomical distribution and were not clearly associated, in an exclusive manner, with telencephalic brain areas that incorporate new neurons in adulthood. Song control nuclei were associated with a particular specialized expression of reelin and its mRNA, with the reelin signal being either denser or lighter in the song nucleus than in the surrounding tissue. The density of reelin-immunoreactive structures did not seem to be affected by 4 weeks of treatment with exogenous testosterone. These observations do not provide conclusive evidence that reelin plays a prominent role in the positioning of new neurons in the adult canary brain but call for additional work on this protein analyzing its expression comparatively during development and in adulthood with a better temporal resolution at critical points in the reproductive cycle when brain plasticity is known to occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)944-962
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Dab1
  • immunocytochemistry
  • in situ hybridization
  • neuroplasticity
  • reelin
  • songbirds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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