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Author Notes:

We thank Profs. Jacques Balthazart, Elena Choleris, and Luke Remage-Healey for the invitation to contribute to this Special Issue.


Research Funding:

The work described herein was supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant 133606 (to KKS), Canada Foundation for Innovation Grant (to KKS), BC Knowledge Development Fund Grant (to KKS), Uruguay Graduate Scholarship from the Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovation (to CJ), NIH R01MH082833 (to DLM), and NIH R21MH102677 (to DLM).


  • aggression
  • aromatase
  • estrogen
  • neurosteroids
  • non-genomic
  • season
  • testosterone
  • DHEA

Rapid effects of 17β-estradiol on aggressive behavior in songbirds: Environmental and genetic influences


Journal Title:

Hormones and Behavior


Volume 104


, Pages 41-51

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


17β-estradiol (E2) has numerous rapid effects on the brain and behavior. This review focuses on the rapid effects of E2 on aggression, an important social behavior, in songbirds. First, we highlight the contributions of studies on song sparrows, which reveal that seasonal changes in the environment profoundly influence the capacity of E2 to rapidly alter aggressive behavior. E2 administration to male song sparrows increases aggression within 20 min in the non-breeding season, but not in the breeding season. Furthermore, E2 rapidly modulates several phosphoproteins in the song sparrow brain. In particular, E2 rapidly affects pCREB in the medial preoptic nucleus, in the non-breeding season only. Second, we describe studies of the white-throated sparrow, which reveal how a genetic polymorphism may influence the rapid effects of E2 on aggression. In this species, a chromosomal rearrangement that includes ESR1, which encodes estrogen receptor α (ERα), affects ERα expression in the brain and the ability of E2 to rapidly promote aggression. Third, we summarize studies showing that aggressive interactions rapidly affect levels of E2 and other steroids, both in the blood and in specific brain regions, and the emerging potential for steroid profiling by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Such studies of songbirds demonstrate the value of an ethologically informed approach, in order to reveal how steroids act rapidly on the brain to alter naturally-occurring behavior.

Copyright information:

© 2018 Published by Elsevier Inc.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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