a large number of RNA molecules change levels when a bird is listening to a song.
- First songbird genome arrives with spring
The genome of a songbird has been decoded for the first time. Zebra finches
join chickens as the only birds to have detailed maps of their genetic
Analyses of gene activity in zebra finches' brains showed that the activity
of more than 800 genes changes when the birds sing. The finding supports a
previous study by Clayton's group, which showed that a large number of RNA
molecules change levels when a bird is listening to a song.
The new genome sequence revealed that many of those RNAs are regulatory
molecules known as non-coding RNAs. Levels of one of those molecules, a tiny
snippet of RNA known as microRNA-124, drop rapidly when a bird hears a new
song, the researchers report. MicroRNAs are known to regulate production of
proteins and have been suggested to be important for brain function, but
this is the first time a microRNA has been shown to respond to a particular
thought process, Clayton says.
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