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Frontiers in Neuroscience

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Red-sided garter snake -- Manitoba -- Interlake Region, Red-sided garter snake -- Reproduction, Red-sided garter snake -- Courtship behavior, Red-sided garter snake -- Neurogenesis, Cell migration


Seasonal rhythms in physiology and behavior are widespread across diverse taxonomic groups and may be mediated by seasonal changes in neurogenesis, including cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation. We examined if cell proliferation in the brain is associated with the seasonal life-history transition from spring breeding to migration and summer foraging in a free-ranging population of red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) in Manitoba, Canada. We used the thymidine analog 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to label newly proliferated cells within the brain of adult snakes collected from the den during the mating season or from a road located along their migratory route. To assess rates of cell migration, we further categorized BrdU-labeled cells according to their location within the ventricular zone or parenchymal region of the nucleus sphericus (homolog of the amygdala), preoptic area/hypothalamus, septal nucleus, and cortex (homolog of the hippocampus). We found that cell proliferation and cell migration varied significantly with sex, the migratory status of snakes, and reproductive behavior in males. In most regions of interest, patterns of cell proliferation were sexually dimorphic, with males having significantly more BrdU-labeled cells than females prior to migration. However, during the initial stages of migration, females exhibited a significant increase in cell proliferation within the nucleus sphericus, hypothalamus, and septal nucleus, but not in any subregion of the cortex. In contrast, migrating males exhibited a significant increase in cell proliferation within the medial cortex but no other brain region. Because it is unlikely that the medial cortex plays a sexually dimorphic role in spatial memory during spring migration, we speculate that cell proliferation within the male medial cortex is associated with regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Finally, the only brain region where cell migration into the parenchymal region varied significantly with sex or migratory status was the hypothalamus. These results suggest that the migration of newly proliferated cells and/or the continued division of undifferentiated cells are activated earlier or to a greater extent in the hypothalamus. Our data suggest that sexually dimorphic changes in cell proliferation and cell migration in the adult brain may mediate sex differences in the timing of seasonal life-history transitions.


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Copyright © 2018 Lutterschmidt, Lucas, Karam, Nguyen and Rasmussen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.



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