Brain expression and song regulation of the cholecystokinin gene in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

J Comp Neurol. 2011 Feb 1;519(2):211-37. doi: 10.1002/cne.22513.


The gene encoding cholecystokinin (Cck) is abundantly expressed in the mammalian brain and has been associated with such functions as feeding termination and satiety, locomotion and self-stimulation, the modulation of anxiety-like behaviors, and learning and memory. Here we describe the brain expression and song regulation of Cck in the brain of the adult male zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), a songbird species. Using in situ hybridization we demonstrate that Cck is highly expressed in several discrete brain regions, most prominently the caudalmost portion of the hippocampal formation, the caudodorsal nidopallial shelf and the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM), the core or shell regions of dorsal thalamic nuclei, dopaminergic cell groups in the mesencephalon and pons, the principal nucleus of the trigeminal nerve, and the dorsal raphe. Cck was largely absent in song control system, a group of nuclei required for vocal learning and song production in songbirds, although sparse labeling was detected throughout the striatum, including song nucleus area X. We also show that levels of Cck mRNA and the number of labeled cells increase in the NCM of males and females following auditory stimulation with conspecific song. Double labeling further reveals that the majority of Cck cells, excluding those in the reticular nucleus of the thalamus, are non-GABAergic. Together, these data provide the first comprehensive characterization of Cck expression in a songbird, and suggest a possible involvement of Cck regulation in important aspects of birdsong biology, such as perceptual processing, auditory memorization, and/or vocal-motor control of song production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cholecystokinin / genetics*
  • Cholecystokinin / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Finches / physiology*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Cholecystokinin