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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The chicken immediate-early gene ZENK is expressed in the medio-rostral neostriatum/hyperstriatum ventrale, a brain region involved in acoustic imprinting, and is up-regulated after exposure to an auditory stimulus.

The immediate-early gene zenk (an acronym for the avian orthologue of the mammalian genes zif-268, egr-1, ngfi-a and krox-24) has been extensively employed, in studies on oscine birds, as a marker of neuronal activity to reveal forebrain structures that are involved in the memory processes associated with the acquisition, perception and production of song. Audition-induced expression of this gene, in brain, has also recently been reported for the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) and the Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica). Whilst the anatomical distribution of zenk expression was described for the quail, corresponding data for the chicken were not reported. We have, therefore, used in situ hybridisation to localise the mRNA that encodes the product of the zenk gene (which we call ZENK) within the brain of the 1-day-old chick. We demonstrate that this transcript is present in a number of forebrain structures including the medio-rostral neostriatum/hyperstriatum ventrale (MNH), a region that has been strongly implicated in auditory imprinting (which is a form of recognition memory), and Field L, the avian analog of the mammalian auditory cortex. Because of this pattern of gene expression, we have compared the level of the ZENK mRNA in chicks that have been subjected to a 30-min acoustic imprinting paradigm and in untrained controls. Our results reveal a significant increase (P< or =0.05) in the level of the ZENK mRNA in MNH and Field L, and in the two forebrain hemispheres; no increase was seen in the ectostriatum, which is a visual projection area. The data obtained implicate the immediate-early gene, zenk, in auditory imprinting, which is an established model of juvenile learning. In addition, our results indicate that the ZENK mRNA may be used as a molecular marker for MNH, a region that is difficult to anatomically and histochemically delineate.[1]


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