Hypothalamic and liver transcriptome from two crucial life-history stages in a migratory songbird

Aakansha Sharma, Devraj Singh, Subhajit Das, Vinod Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


New Findings: What is the central question of this study? What are the molecular underpinnings of the seasonal adaptation in a latitudinal migratory songbird? What is the main finding and its importance? We found changes in mRNA levels after a photoperiod-induced alteration of seasonal state in a captive long-distance latitudinal avian migrant. The hypothalamus and liver transcriptomes revealed genes involved in the regulatory and functional pathways between non-migratory and migratory states. Our results provide insights into mechanisms underlying homeostasis during seasonal changes that are conserved across most species, including humans. Abstract: Very little is understood about genetic mechanisms underlying the onset of spring migration in latitudinal avian migrants. To gain insight into the genetic architecture of the hypothalamus and liver tissues of a long-distance migrant, we examined and compared the transcriptome profile of captive night-migratory black-headed buntings (Emberiza melanocephala) between photoperiod-induced winter non-migratory (WnM) and spring migratory (SM) life-history states under short and long days, respectively. High-throughput 454 pyrosequenced transcripts were mapped initially with reference to the genome of two phylogenetically close species, Taeniopygia guttata and Ficedula albicollis. The F. albicollis genome gave higher annotation results and was used for further analysis. A total of 216 (78 in hypothalamus; 138 in liver) genes were found to be expressed differentially between the WnM and SM life-history states. These genes were enriched for physiological pathways that might be involved in the regulation of seasonal migrations in birds. For example, genes for the ATP binding pathway in the hypothalamus were expressed at a significantly higher level in SM than in the WnM life-history state. Likewise, upregulated genes associated with the myelin sheath and focal adhesion were enriched in the hypothalamus, and those with cell-to-cell junction, intracellular protein transport, calcium ion transport and small GTPase-mediated signal transduction were enriched in the liver. Many of these genes are a part of physiological pathways potentially involved in the regulation of seasonal migration in birds. These results show molecular changes at the regulatory and metabolic levels associated with seasonal transitions in a long-distance migrant and provide the basis for future studies aimed at unravelling the genetic control of migration in birds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2018 The Physiological Society


  • RNA-Seq
  • bird
  • migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Hypothalamic and liver transcriptome from two crucial life-history stages in a migratory songbird'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this