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The dFoxP gene is necessary for operant self-learning: Implications for the evolutionary origins of
AuthorBrembs, Pauly, Schade, Mendoza, Pflüger, Rybak, Scharff, Zars
Author email bjoern©
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DescriptionIn humans, mutations of the transcription factor Forkhead box protein P2 (FoxP2) cause a severe speech and language disorder. Downregulating the Zebrafinch FoxP2 orthologue in development results in incomplete and inaccurate song imitation. These forms of vocal learning exhibit two common characteristics: 1. Spontaneous initiation of behavior (‘trying out’); 2. Evaluation of sensory feedback shaping behavior. Using a torque learning essay in which both characteristics have been realized, we investigated the involvement of the fly orthologue, FoxP, in operant self-learning in the fruit fly Drosophila. The experiments were performed using stationary flying Drosophila at the torque compensator with heat as punishment. Both a P-Element insertion and RNAi-mediated knockdown of the isoform B of the Drosophila FoxP gene did not lead to alterations of the gross brain anatomy, nor to an impairment in operant world-learning, i.e., color-learning, compared to control flies. However, both fly strains were impaired in operant self-learning, i.e., yaw-torque learning without any environmental predictors. Neither the FoxP intron retention isoform nor isoform A appear to be involved in this form of learning. These results suggest a specific involvement of isoform B of the Drosophila FoxP gene in the neural plasticity underlying operant self-learning but not in other forms of learning. To investigate the effects of RNAi knockdown and P-Element insertion on FoxP abundance and localization in the fly central nervous system, we have generated polyclonal chicken antibodies against four different regions of the putative FoxP protein.
Perhaps not surprisingly, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that one of the evolutionary roots of language is the ability to directly modify the neural circuits controlling behavior. It is noteworthy that these roots can apparently be traced back to the Ur-bilaterian, the last common ancestor of vertebrates and invertebrates.
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