Neuronal production, migration, and differentiation in a vocal control nucleus of the adult female canary brain.
The vocal control nucleus designated HVc (hyperstriatum ventrale, pars caudalis) of adult female canaries expands in response to systemic testosterone administration, which also induces the females to sing in a male-like manner. We became interested in the possibility of neurogenesis as a potential basis for this phenomenon. Intact adult female canaries were injected with [3H]thymidine over a 2-day period. Some birds were given testosterone implants at various times before thymidine. The birds were sacrificed 5 wk after hormone implantation, and their brains were processed for autoradiography. In parallel control experiments, some birds were given implants of cholesterol instead of testosterone. All birds showed considerable numbers of labeled neurons, glia, endothelia, and ventricular zone cells in and around HVc. Ultrastructural analysis confirmed the identity of these labeled neurons. Cholesterol- and testosterone-treated birds had similar neuronal labeling indices, which ranged from 1.8% to 4.0% in HVc. Thus, neurogenesis occurred in these adults independently of exogenous hormone treatment. Conversely, both glial and endothelial proliferation rates were markedly stimulated by exogenous testosterone treatment. We determined the origin of the thymidine-incorporating neurons by sacrificing two thymidine-treated females soon after their thymidine injections, precluding any significant migration of newly labeled cells. Analysis of these brains revealed no cells of neuronal morphology present in HVc but a very heavily labeled ventricular zone overlying HVc. We conclude that neuronal precursors exist in the HVc ventricular zone that incorporate tritiated thymidine during the S phase preceding their mitosis; after division these cells migrate into, and to some extent beyond, HVc. This ventricular zone neurogenesis seems to be a normally occurring phenomenon in intact adult female canaries.