Distribution of aromatase-immunoreactive cells in the forebrain of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata): Implications for the neural action of steroids and nuclear definition in the avian hypothalamus

Jacques Balthazart, Philippe Absil, Agnes Foidart, Marc Houbart, Nobuhiro Harada, Gregory F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cells immunoreactive for the enzyme aromatase were localized in the forebrain of male zebra finches with the use of an immunocytochemistry procedure. Two polyclonal antibodies, one directed against human placental aromatase and the other directed against quail recombinant aromatase, revealed a heterogeneous distribution of the enzyme in the telencephalon, diencephalon, and mesencephalon. Staining was enhanced in some birds by the administration of the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor, R76713 (racemic Vorozole) prior to the perfusion of the birds as previously described in Japanese quail. Large numbers of cells immunoreactive for aromatase were found in nuclei in the preoptic region and in the tuberal hypothalamus. A nucleus was identified in the preoptic region based on the high density of aromatase immunoreactive cells within its boundaries that appears to be homologous to the preoptic medial nucleus (POM) described previously in Japanese quail. In several birds alternate sections were stained for immunoreactive vasotocin, a marker of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). This information facilitated the clear separation of the POM in zebra finches from nuclei that are adjacent to the POM in the preoptic area-hypothalamus, such as the PVN and the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. Positively staining cells were also detected widely throughout the telencephalon. Cells were discerned in the medial parts of the ventral hyperstriatum and neostriatum near the lateral ventricle and in dorsal and medial parts of the hippocampus. They were most abundant in the caudal neostriatum where they clustered in the dorsomedial neostriatum, and as a band of cells coursing along the dorsal edge of the lamina archistriatalis dorsalis. They were also present in high numbers in the ventrolateral aspect of the neostriatum and in the nucleus taeniae. None of the telencephalic vocal control nuclei had appreciable numbers of cells immunoreactive for aromatase within their boundaries, with the possible exception of a group of cells that may correspond to the medial part of the magnocellular nucleus of the neostriatum. The distribution of immunoreactive aromatase cells in the zebra finch brain is in excellent agreement with the distribution of cells expressing the mRNA for aromatase recently described in the finch telencephalon. This widespread telencephalic distribution of cells immunoreactive for aromatase has not been described in non-songbird species such as the Japanese quail, the ring dove, and the domestic fowl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-148
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1996


  • arian hypothalamus
  • aromatase
  • immunoreactive cells
  • steroids
  • zebra finch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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