Photoperiodic condition is associated with region-specific expression of GNRH1 mRNA in the preoptic area of the male starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Tyler J. Stevenson, Daniel J. Bernard, Gregory F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


seasonally breeding avian species exhibit marked changes in hypothalamic content of gonadotropin-releasing vhormone 1 (GNRH1) protein that are reflective of breeding condition. We recently cloned the CNRH1 cDNA in European starlings and demonstrated that changes in GNRH1 mRNA levels occur with a time course similar to what has been observed with GNRH1 protein. However, we did not previously resolve whether these differences were attributable to changes in the number of cells expressing the gene. Herein, we investigated photoperiod-induced changes in the number and distribution of GNRH1 mRNA-expressing cells in the preoptic area of male starlings. GNRH1 mRNA-expressing cell number was signifi-cantly greater in breeding birds than in nonbreeding birds. Starlings maintained in short nonstimulatory day length (i.e., prebreeding) showed intermediate cell numbers. Detailed analysis of the rostrocaudal and mediolateral distribution revealed that breeding birds had greater numbers of cells expressing GNRH7 mRNA in the medial intermediate, medi-ocaudal, and lateral intermediate preoptic area compared with prebreeding and nonbreeding birds. These data demonstrate that photoperiodic changes in reproductive state in starlings are associated with region-specific alterations in the number of cells expressing the GNRH1 gene. It remains to be determined whether these changes reflect quantitative differences in gene expression among an otherwise stable population of cells or a phenotypic switch in which cells gain or lose the ability to make GNRH1 mRNA in response to environmental cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-680
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Key gonadotropin-releasing hormone
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Seasonal reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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