Neural pathways mediating control of reproductive behavior in male Japanese quail

J Comp Neurol. 2013 Jun 15;521(9):2067-87. doi: 10.1002/cne.23275.


The sexually dimorphic medial preoptic nucleus (POM) in Japanese quail has for many years been the focus of intensive investigations into its role in reproductive behavior. The present study delineates a sequence of descending pathways that finally reach sacral levels of the spinal cord housing motor neurons innervating cloacal muscles involved in reproductive behavior. We first retrogradely labeled the motor neurons innervating the large cloacal sphincter muscle (mSC) that forms part of the foam gland complex (Seiwert and Adkins-Regan [1998] Brain Behav Evol 52:61-80) and then putative premotor nuclei in the brainstem, one of which was nucleus retroambigualis (RAm) in the caudal medulla. Anterograde tracing from RAm defined a bulbospinal pathway, terminations of which overlapped the distribution of mSC motor neurons and their extensive dorsally directed dendrites. Descending input to RAm arose from an extensive dorsomedial nucleus of the intercollicular complex (DM-ICo), electrical stimulation of which drove vocalizations. POM neurons were retrogradely labeled by injections of tracer into DM-ICo, but POM projections largely surrounded DM, rather than penetrated it. Thus, although a POM projection to ICo was shown, a POM projection to DM must be inferred. Nevertheless, the sequence of projections in the male quail from POM to cloacal motor neurons strongly resembles that in rats, cats, and monkeys for the control of reproductive behavior, as largely defined by Holstege et al. ([1997], Neuroscience 80:587-598).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amidines / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cholera Toxin / metabolism
  • Coturnix / anatomy & histology*
  • Coturnix / physiology
  • Dextrans / metabolism
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Amidines
  • Dextrans
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • diamidino compound 253-50
  • Biotin
  • Cholera Toxin