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Estradiol interacts with an opioidergic network to achieve rapid modulation of a vocal pattern generator


Estrogens rapidly regulate neuronal activity within seconds-to-minutes, yet it is unclear how estrogens interact with neural circuits to rapidly coordinate behavior. This study examines whether 17-beta-estradiol interacts with an opioidergic network to achieve rapid modulation of a vocal control circuit. Adult plainfin midshipman fish emit vocalizations that mainly differ in duration, and rhythmic activity of a hindbrain–spinal vocal pattern generator (VPG) directly establishes the temporal features of midshipman vocalizations. VPG activity is therefore predictive of natural calls, and ‘fictive calls’ can be elicited by electrical microstimulation of the VPG. Prior studies show that intramuscular estradiol injection rapidly (within 5 min) increases fictive call duration in midshipman. Here, we delivered opioid antagonists near the VPG prior to estradiol injection. Rapid estradiol actions on fictive calling were completely suppressed by the broad-spectrum opioid antagonist naloxone and the mu-opioid antagonist beta-funaltrexamine, but were unaffected by the kappa-opioid antagonist nor-binaltorphimine. Unexpectedly, prior to estradiol administration, all three opioid antagonists caused immediate, transient reductions in fictive call duration. Together, our results indicate that: (1) vocal activity is modulated by opioidergic networks, confirming hypotheses from birds and mammals, and (2) the rapid actions of estradiol on vocal patterning depend on interactions with a mu-opioid modulatory network.

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