Distribution of corticotropin-releasing factor and urocortin 1 in the vole brain

Miranda M. Lim, Natalia O. Tsivkovskaia, Yaohui Bai, Larry J. Young, Andrey E. Ryabinin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Brain receptor patterns for the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptors, CRF1 and CRF2, are dramatically different between monogamous and promiscuous vole species, and CRF physiologically regulates pair bonding behavior in the monogamous prairie vole. However, it is uncertain whether species differences also exist in the neuroanatomical distribution of the endogenous ligands for the CRF1 and CRF2 receptors, such as CRF and urocortin-1 (Ucn1). We compared the expression of CRF and Ucn1 in four vole species, monogamous prairie and pine voles, and promiscuous meadow and montane voles, using in situ hybridization of CRF and Ucn1 mRNA. Our results reveal that CRF mRNA expression patterns in all four vole species appear highly conserved throughout the brain, including the olfactory bulb, nucleus accumbens, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, medial preoptic area, central amygdala, hippocampus, posterior thalamus, and cerebellum. Similarly, Ucn1 mRNA primarily localized to the Edinger-Westphal nucleus in all four vole species. Immunocytochemistry in prairie and meadow voles confirmed localization of CRF and Ucn1 protein to these previously identified brain regions. These data demonstrate a striking dichotomy between the extraordinary species diversity of brain receptor patterns when compared to the highly conserved brain distributions of their respective ligands. Our findings generate novel hypotheses regarding the evolutionary mechanisms underlying the neural circuitry of species-typical social behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-240
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • CRF1
  • CRF2
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone
  • Edinger-Westphal nucleus
  • Median raphe
  • Nucleus accumbens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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