First songbird genome arrives with spring

Posted: April 5, 2010 at 6:45 am

Story Summary: The little songbirds genetic instruction book has just been deciphered. Male zebra finches memorize their fathers songs and practice singing the song for a month or two. In the new study, the researchers decoded DNA taken from a male zebra finch called Black 17. Comparing Black 17s genetic blueprint to that of chickens revealed several notable features in the birds genomes. For instance, in zebra finches, immune system genes of the major histocompatibility complex are scattered across several chromosomes, while chickens and humans keep such genes in clusters on a single chromosome. The finding supports a previous study by Claytons group, which showed that a large number of RNA molecules change levels when a bird is listening to a song. The new genome sequence revealed that many of those RNAs are regulatory molecules known as noncoding RNAs. Levels of one of those molecules, a tiny snippet of RNA known as microRNA-124, drop rapidly when a bird hears a new song, the researchers report. Levels of one of those molecules, a tiny snippet of RNA known as microRNA-124, drop rapidly when a bird hears a new song, the researchers report. Levels of one of those molecules, a tiny snippet of RNA known as microRNA-124, drop rapidly when a bird hears a new song, the researchers report. MicroRNAs are known to regulate production of proteins and have been suggested to be important for brain function (SN: 03/01/2008, p. 136), but this is the first time a microRNA has been shown to respond to a particular thought process, Clayton says….Read the Full Story

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