Gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) was originally identified in quail as a hypothalamic neuropeptide inhibitor of pituitary gonadotropin synthesis and release. However, GnIH neuronal fibers do not only terminate in the median eminence to control anterior pituitary function but also extend widely in the brain, suggesting it has multiple roles in the regulation of behavior. To identify the role of GnIH neurons in the regulation of behavior, we investigated the effect of RNA interference (RNAi) of the GnIH gene on the behavior of white-crowned sparrows, a highly social songbird species. Administration of small interfering RNA against GnIH precursor mRNA into the third ventricle of male and female birds reduced resting time, spontaneous production of complex vocalizations, and stimulated brief agonistic vocalizations. GnIH RNAi further enhanced song production of short duration in male birds when they were challenged by playbacks of novel male songs. These behaviors resembled those of breeding birds during territorial defense. The overall results suggest that GnIH gene silencing induces arousal. In addition, the activities of male and female birds were negatively correlated with GnIH mRNA expression in the paraventricular nucleus. Density of GnIH neuronal fibers in the ventral tegmental area was decreased by GnIH RNAi treatment in female birds, and the number of gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons that received close appositions of GnIH neuronal fiber terminals was negatively correlated with the activity of male birds. In summary, GnIH may decrease arousal level resulting in the inhibition of specific motivated behavior such as in reproductive contexts.
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