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Seasonal changes in cell neogenesis in the brain and pituitary gland: a study in the adult male frog, Rana catesbeiana

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Though for most of the twentieth century, dogma held that the adult brain was post-mitotic, it is now known that adult neurogenesis is widespread among vertebrates, from fish, amphibians, reptiles

Though for most of the twentieth century, dogma held that the adult brain was post-mitotic, it is now known that adult neurogenesis is widespread among vertebrates, from fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds to mammals including humans. Seasonal changes in adult neurogenesis are well characterized in the song control system of song birds, and have been found in seasonally breeding mammals as well. In contrast to more derived vertebrates, such as mammals, where adult neurogenesis is restricted primarily to the olfactory bulb and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, neurogenesis is widespread along the ventricles of adult amphibians. I hypothesized that seasonal changes in adult amphibian brain cell proliferation and survival are a potential regulator of reproductive neuroendocrine function. Adult, male American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana; aka Lithobates catesbeianus), were maintained in captivity for up to a year under season-appropriate photoperiod. Analysis of hormone levels indicated seasonal changes in plasma testosterone concentration consistent with field studies. Using the thymidine analogue 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) as a marker for newly generated cells, two differentially regulated aspects of brain cell neogenesis were tracked; that is, proliferation and survival. Seasonal differences were found in BrdU labeling in several brain areas, including the olfactory bulb, medial pallium, nucleus accumbens and the infundibular hypothalamus. Clear seasonal differences were also found in the pars distalis region of the pituitary gland, an important component of neuroendocrine pathways. BrdU labeling was also examined in relation to two neuropeptides important for amphibian reproduction: arginine vasotocin and gonadotropin releasing hormone. No cells co-localized with BrdU and either neuropeptide, but new born cells were found in close proximity to neuropeptide-containing neurons. These data suggest that seasonal differences in brain and pituitary gland cell neogenesis are a potential neuroendocrine regulatory mechanism.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Investigating the influence of food on reproductive physiology and gonad growth: urbanization as a natural experiment

Description

For animals that experience annual cycles of gonad development, the seasonal timing (phenology) of gonad growth is a major adaptation to local environmental conditions. To optimally time seasonal gonad growth,

For animals that experience annual cycles of gonad development, the seasonal timing (phenology) of gonad growth is a major adaptation to local environmental conditions. To optimally time seasonal gonad growth, animals use environmental cues that forecast future conditions. The availability of food is one such environmental cue. Although the importance of food availability has been appreciated for decades, the physiological mechanisms underlying the modulation of seasonal gonad growth by this environmental factor remain poorly understood.

Urbanization is characterized by profound environmental changes, and urban animals must adjust to an environment vastly different from that of their non-urban conspecifics. Evidence suggests that birds adjust to urban areas by advancing the timing of seasonal breeding and gonad development, compared to their non-urban conspecifics. A leading hypothesis to account for this phenomenon is that food availability is elevated in urban areas, which improves the energetic status of urban birds and enables them to initiate gonad development earlier than their non-urban conspecifics. However, this hypothesis remains largely untested.

My dissertation dovetailed comparative studies and experimental approaches conducted in field and captive settings to examine the physiological mechanisms by which food availability modulates gonad growth and to investigate whether elevated food availability in urban areas advances the phenology of gonad growth in urban birds. My captive study demonstrated that energetic status modulates reproductive hormone secretion, but not gonad growth. By contrast, free-ranging urban and non-urban birds did not differ in energetic status or plasma levels of reproductive hormones either in years in which urban birds had advanced phenology of gonad growth or in a year that had no habitat-related disparity in seasonal gonad growth. Therefore, my dissertation provides no support for the hypothesis that urban birds begin seasonal gonad growth because they are in better energetic status and increase the secretion of reproductive hormones earlier than non-urban birds. My studies do suggest, however, that the phenology of key food items and the endocrine responsiveness of the reproductive system may contribute to habitat-related disparities in the phenology of gonad growth.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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The role of corticosterone in stress-induced suppression of innate immunity in the male house sparrow

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In wild birds, the stress response can inhibit the activity of the innate immune system, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens. By elucidating the mechanisms which

In wild birds, the stress response can inhibit the activity of the innate immune system, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens. By elucidating the mechanisms which regulate the interaction between stress and innate immunity, researchers may be able to predict when birds experience increased susceptibility to infections and can target specific mediators to mitigate stress-induced suppression of innate immune activity. Such elucidation is especially important for urban birds, such as the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), because these birds experience higher pathogen prevalence and transmission when compared to birds in rural regions. I investigated the role of corticosterone (CORT) in stress-induced suppression of two measures of innate immune activity (complement- and natural antibody-mediated activity) in male House Sparrows. Corticosterone, the primary avian glucocorticoid, is elevated during the stress response and high levels of this hormone induce effects through the activation of cytosolic and membrane-bound glucocorticoid receptors (GR). My results demonstrate that CORT is necessary and sufficient for stress-induced suppression of complement-mediated activity, and that this relationship is consistent between years. Corticosterone, however, does not inhibit complement-mediated activity through cytosolic GR, and additional research is needed to confirm the involvement of membrane-bound GR. The role of CORT in stress-induced inhibition of natural antibody-mediated activity, however, remains puzzling. Stress-induced elevation of CORT can suppress natural antibody-mediated activity through the activation of cytosolic GR, but the necessity of this mechanism varies inter-annually. In other words, both CORT-dependent and CORT-independent mechanisms may inhibit natural antibody-mediated activity during stress in certain years, but the causes of this inter-annual variation are not known. Previous studies have indicated that changes in the pathogen environment or food availability can alter regulation of innate immunity, but further research is needed to test these hypotheses. Overall, my dissertation demonstrates that stress inhibits innate immunity through several mechanisms, but environmental pressures may influence this inhibitory relationship.

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Date Created
  • 2017

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Consequences of Negative Energy Balance on Avian Reproductive Physiology: Endocrine and Metabolic Mediators

Description

Reproduction is energetically costly and seasonal breeding has evolved to capitalize on predictable increases in food availability. The synchronization of breeding with periods of peak food availability is especially important

Reproduction is energetically costly and seasonal breeding has evolved to capitalize on predictable increases in food availability. The synchronization of breeding with periods of peak food availability is especially important for small birds, most of which do not store an extensive amount of energy. The annual change in photoperiod is the primary environmental cue regulating reproductive development, but must be integrated with supplementary cues relating to local energetic conditions. Photoperiodic regulation of the reproductive neuroendocrine system is well described in seasonally breeding birds, but the mechanisms that these animals use to integrate supplementary cues remain unclear. I hypothesized that (a) environmental cues that negatively affect energy balance inhibit reproductive development by acting at multiple levels along the reproductive endocrine axis including the hypothalamus (b) that the availability of metabolic fuels conveys alterations in energy balance to the reproductive system. I investigated these hypotheses in male house finches, Haemorhous mexicanus, caught in the wild and brought into captivity. I first experimentally reduced body condition through food restriction and found that gonadal development and function are inhibited and these changes are associated with changes in hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). I then investigated this neuroendocrine integration and found that finches maintain reproductive flexibility through modifying the release of accumulated GnRH stores in response to energetic conditions. Lastly, I investigated the role of metabolic fuels in coordinating reproductive responses under two different models of negative energy balance, decreased energy intake (food restriction) and increased energy expenditure (high temperatures). Exposure to high temperatures lowered body condition and reduced food intake. Reproductive development was inhibited under both energy challenges, and occurred with decreased gonadal gene expression of enzymes involved in steroid synthesis. Minor changes in fuel utilization occurred under food restriction but not high temperatures. My results support the hypothesis that negative energy balance inhibits reproductive development through multilevel effects on the hypothalamus and gonads. These studies are among the first to demonstrate a negative effect of high temperatures on reproductive development in a wild bird. Overall, the above findings provide important foundations for investigations into adaptive responses of breeding in energetically variable environments.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2018