Transcriptomics of Parental Care in the Hypothalamic-Septal Region of Female Zebra Finch Brain

Rashmi Kumari, Emese A. Fazekas, Boglárka Morvai, Edina B. Udvari, Fanni Dóra, Gergely Zachar, Tamás Székely, Ákos Pogány, Árpád Dobolyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


(1) Background: The objective of this study was to uncover genomic causes of parental care. Since birds do not lactate and, therefore, do not show the gene expressional changes required for lactation, we investigate gene expression associated with parenting in caring and non-caring females in an avian species, the small passerine bird zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Here, we compare expression patterns in the hypothalamic-septal region since, previously, we showed that this area is activated in parenting females. (2) Methods: Transcriptome sequencing was first applied in a dissected part of the zebra finch brain related to taking care of the nestlings as compared to a control group of social pairs without nestlings. (3) Results: We found genes differentially expressed between caring and non-caring females. When introducing a log2fold change threshold of 1.5, 13 annotated genes were significantly upregulated in breeding pairs, while 39 annotated genes were downregulated. Significant enrichments of dopamine and acetylcholine biosynthetic processes were identified among upregulated pathways, while pro-opiomelanocortin and thyroid hormone pathways were downregulated, suggesting the importance of these systems in parental care. Network analysis further suggested neuro-immunological changes in mothers. (4) Conclusions: The results confirm the roles of several hypothesized major pathways in parental care, whereas novel pathways are also proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2518
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Gene expression
  • Gene ontology
  • Hypothalamic-septal region
  • Parental care
  • Posthatching period
  • RNA-Seq
  • Social behaviour
  • Transcriptome sequencing
  • Zebra finch mother

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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