MicroRNAs in zebra finch’s brain respond to new songs!Published On: Fri, Jul 1st, 2011 | Genomics | By BioNews
A recent study has shown that microRNAs in the Central Australian bird zebra finch respond when the feathered friend hears a new song.
Researchers from the University of Illinois observed that whenever the bird heard an unfamiliar song from a male of the same species, it stopped chirping, hopping and grooming.
The zebra finch listened attentively for a few minutes without moving and once it became familiar with the song, it returned to its busy routine.
MicroRNAs are part of a new frontier in genomic biology: the 90 pc of human DNA that doesn’t code for proteins.
This “dark matter of the genome” includes genes that are transcribed into many different types of RNA molecules.
According to the study, the levels of microRNAs – short lengths of ribonucleic acid that appear to regulate protein production – go up or down in the songbird brain after it hear a new song.
These microRNAs represent a new class of regulatory agents that fine-tune the brain’s response to social information, according to the researchers.
“The question that we started with was, are there microRNAs that are showing a response to song in the brain? And the answer is clearly yes, there are. The bigger question that we don’t have an answer to yet is what are they doing,” said David Clayton, University of Illinois cell and developmental biology professor.
The researchers also identified a microRNA that went up in males and down in females after the birds heard a new song.
The study appears in BMC Genomics.