Identity of gonadotropin-releasing hormone in passerine birds: Comparison of GnRH in song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) and starling (Sturnus vulgaris) with five vertebrate GnRHs

Nancy M. Sherwood, John C. Wingfield, Gregory F. Ball, Alfred M. Dufty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) was detected in the brains of passerine birds, a recently evolved and diverse avian group. The molecular forms of GnRH in two species of birds under breeding conditions were deduced using methods of HPLC and immunology. The brain extracts of song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) contained a form of GnRH identified as chicken I GnRH-like peptide by its HPLC elution pattern and cross-reactivity with four antisera. In contrast, starling (Sturnus vulgaris) brain extracts showed molecular heterogeneity of GnRH forms; equal amounts of chicken I and chicken II GnRH-like peptides were present. Neither bird contained GnRH that could be identified as mammalian, salmon, or lamprey GnRH. Chicken II GnRH-like peptide may not have evolved after the separation of the song sparrow and starling as both peptides are found in chicken, a more primitive bird. The possibility remains that different stages of the life cycle are associated with the expression of these GnRH-like peptides or their ratio. Only determination of the primary structure will establish whether our chromatographic and immunological evidence is correct that chicken I and II GnRH are present in passerine birds and have been conserved in representatives throughout the reptiles and birds. Starlings can be added now to the growing list of submammalian species that express multiple forms of GnRH in their brains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-351
Number of pages11
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1988


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology

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