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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Wendy M. Zinzow-Kramer, 1510 Clifton Rd. NE, Room 2006, Dept. Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, wzinzow@emory.edu, Ph: (404)727–5879.

Sequencing of the superwhite genome and SNP calling between the reference assembly and the superwhite assembly were performed by the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center of the University of Illinois. RNA-seq for the HYP and MeA samples was conducted at the Yerkes Nonhuman Primate Genomics Core Laboratory.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by NSF grant SMA-1306132 to W.M.Z. and D.L.M. and NIH grants R01MH082833 to D.L.M. and 1R21NIMH102677 to D.L.M and S.V.Y.

The National Human Genome Research Institute Intramural Research program at the NIH supported J.W.T.


  • behavioral polymorphism
  • RNA-seq
  • social behavior
  • weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA)
  • estrogen receptor alpha

Genes located in a chromosomal inversion are correlated with territorial song in white-throated sparrows

Journal Title:

Genes, Brain and Behavior


Volume 14, Number 8


, Pages 641-654

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


The genome of the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) contains an inversion polymorphism on chromosome 2 that is linked to predictable variation in a suite of phenotypic traits including plumage color, aggression and parental behavior. Differences in gene expression between the two color morphs, which represent the two common inversion genotypes (ZAL2/ZAL2 and ZAL2/ZAL2m), may therefore advance our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of these phenotypes. To identify genes that are differentially expressed between the two morphs and correlated with behavior, we quantified gene expression and terrirorial aggression, including song, in a population of free-living white-throated sparrows. We analyzed gene expression in two brain regions, the medial amygdala (MeA) and hypothalamus. Both regions are part of a 'social behavior network', which is rich in steroid hormone receptors and previously linked with territorial behavior. Using weighted gene co-expression network analyses, we identified modules of genes that were correlated with both morph and singing behavior. The majority of these genes were located within the inversion, showing the profound effect of the inversion on the expression of genes captured by the rearrangement. These modules were enriched with genes related to retinoic acid signaling and basic cellular functioning. In the MeA, the most prominent pathways were those related to steroid hormone receptor activity. Within these pathways, the only gene encoding such a receptor was ESR1 (estrogen receptor 1), a gene previously shown to predict song rate in this species. The set of candidate genes we identified may mediate the effects of a chromosomal inversion on territorial behavior.

Copyright information:

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society.

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