Singing of songbirds is sensitive to testosterone and its androgenic and estrogenic metabolites in a species-specific way. The hormonal effects on song pattern are likely mediated by androgen receptors (AR) and estrogen receptor alpha (ERa), ligand activated transcription factors that are expressed in neurons of various areas of the songbirds' vocal control circuit. The distribution of AR in this circuit is rather similar between species while that of ERa is species variant and concerns a key vocal control area, the HVC (proper name). We discuss the regulation of the expression of the cognate AR and ERa and putative splice variants. In particular, we suggest that transcription factor binding sites in the promoter of these receptors differ between bird species. Further, we suggest that AR- and ERa-dependent gene regulation in vocal areas differs between species due to species-specific DNA binding sites of putative target genes that are required for the transcriptional activity of the receptors. We suggest that species differences in the distribution of AR and ERa in vocal areas and in the genomic sensitivity to these receptors contribute to species-specific hormonal regulation of the song.
Journal: Journal of comparative physiology