Enhanced GABAergic inhibition in the premammillary nucleus of photorefractory turkey hens via GABAA receptor upregulation

Sunantha Kosonsiriluk, Voravasa Chaiworakul, Laura J. Mauro, Mohamed E. El Halawani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The premammillary nucleus (PMM) of the turkey mediobasal hypothalamus, where dopamine-melatonin (DA-Mel) neurons are localized, is a site for photoreception and photoperiodic time measurement, which is essential for the initiation of avian reproductive seasonality. In addition, this area could also be responsible for the onset and maintenance of photorefractoriness at the end of the breeding season due to the enhanced inhibitory effect of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system which interferes with the photosexual response in the turkey, a seasonally breeding bird. Here, we further characterized the GABAA receptor subunits in the PMM DA-Mel neurons related to reproductive seasonality and the onset of photorefractoriness. GABAA receptor subunits and GABA synthesis enzymes in the PMM of photosensitive and photorefractory turkey hens were identified using real-time qRT-PCR. The upregulation of GABAA receptor α1-3, β2-3, γ1-3, ρ1-3, δ, and θ mRNA expression were observed in the PMM of photorefractory birds when compared to those of photosensitive ones while there is no change observed in the GABA synthesis enzymes, glutamate decarboxylase 1 and 2. Those upregulated GABAA receptor subunits were further examined using immunohistochemical staining and they appeared to be co-localized within the PMM DA-Mel neurons. The upregulation of GABAA receptor subunits observed in the PMM of photorefractory birds coincides with a lack of responsiveness to a light stimulus provided during the photosensitive phase. This is supported by the absence of c-fos induction and TH upregulation in the PMM and a subsequence inhibition of c-fos and GnRH-I expression in the nucleus commissurae pallii. The augmented GABAA receptor subunits expression may mediate an enhancement of inhibitory GABAergic neurotransmission and the subsequent interference with the photosexual response. This could contribute to the state of photorefractoriness and the termination of breeding activities in the turkey, a temperate zone bird.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2012-67015-19297 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded to M.E.H.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc..


  • Birds
  • Dopamine-melatonin neuron
  • GABA receptors
  • Photorefractoriness
  • Premammillary nucleus
  • Reproduction


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