Characterization and localization of D1 dopamine receptors in the sexually dimorphic vocal control nucleus, area X, and the basal ganglia of european starlings

Joseph M. Casto, Gregory F. Ball

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D1 dopamine receptors were pharmacologically characterized and localized by quantitative autoradiography in the basal ganglia of male and female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). The D1 selective antagonist SCH 23390 was used to label this receptor subtype. Starlings are songbirds and possess a neural circuit implicated in the learning and production of song. This circuit includes a sexually dimorphic nucleus, area X, that is a subregion of the parolfactory lobe of the basal ganglia and is known from work on zebra finches to receive dopaminergic input from the area ventralis of Tsai. We focused our investigation on the D1‐like receptor subtype because they are abundant in the basal ganglia. Competition studies indicate that a variety of dopaminergic ligands compete with [3H] SCH 23390 for the binding site in an order of potency characteristic of a D1‐like receptor. Autoradiographic studies of the basal ganglia revealed high D1 receptor densities in the avian homologues of the caudate‐putamen and relatively low‐receptor densities were observed in the avian homologue of the globus pallidus. In male starlings, area X could be reliably discerned on the autoradiograms by the higher density of D1 receptors compared to the surrounding parolfactory lobe (LPO). This was also true for females, though nt as reliably as in males. When we compared the mean D1 receptor density in area X for males and females we did not find a significant sex difference. However, we also analyzed the data by comparing sex differences in the degree to which area X has a higher receptor density in comparison with the surrounding LPO. When we normalized D1 receptor density in area X relative to the LPO, we did find a significant sex difference. This sex difference in relative receptor density represents another neural sex difference in the song circuit that may mediate sex differences in the learning and production of song in starlings and other songbirds. 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-780
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1994



  • avian
  • caudate‐putamen
  • sex difference
  • songbird
  • vocalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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