FoxP2 isoforms delineate spatiotemporal transcriptional networks for vocal learning in the zebra finch

Elife. 2018 Jan 23;7:e30649. doi: 10.7554/eLife.30649.


Human speech is one of the few examples of vocal learning among mammals yet ~half of avian species exhibit this ability. Its neurogenetic basis is largely unknown beyond a shared requirement for FoxP2 in both humans and zebra finches. We manipulated FoxP2 isoforms in Area X, a song-specific region of the avian striatopallidum analogous to human anterior striatum, during a critical period for song development. We delineate, for the first time, unique contributions of each isoform to vocal learning. Weighted gene coexpression network analysis of RNA-seq data revealed gene modules correlated to singing, learning, or vocal variability. Coexpression related to singing was found in juvenile and adult Area X whereas coexpression correlated to learning was unique to juveniles. The confluence of learning and singing coexpression in juvenile Area X may underscore molecular processes that drive vocal learning in young zebra finches and, by analogy, humans.

Keywords: Area X; RNA-seq; Taeniopygia guttata; WGCNA; computational biology; neuroscience; systems biology; vocal learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Finches / physiology*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Learning*
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Vocalization, Animal*


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Protein Isoforms