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Rosner, Elisabeth; Rohmann, Kevin N.; Bass, Andrew H.; Chagnaud, Boris P. (2018): Inhibitory and modulatory inputs to the vocal central pattern generator of a teleost fish. In: Journal of Comparative Neurology, Vol. 526, No. 8: pp. 1368-1388
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Vocalization is a behavioral feature that is shared among multiple vertebrate lineages, including fish. The temporal patterning of vocal communication signals is set, in part, by central pattern generators (CPGs). Toadfishes are well-established models for CPG coding of vocalization at the hindbrain level. The vocal CPG comprises three topographically separate nuclei: pre-pacemaker, pacemaker, motor. While the connectivity between these nuclei is well understood, their neurochemical profile remains largely unexplored. The highly vocal Gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta, has been the subject of previous behavioral, neuroanatomical and neurophysiological studies. Combining transneuronal neurobiotin-labeling with immunohistochemistry, we map the distribution of inhibitory neurotransmitters and neuromodulators along with gap junctions in the vocal CPG of this species. Dense GABAergic and glycinergic label is found throughout the CPG, with labeled somata immediately adjacent to or within CPG nuclei, including a distinct subset of pacemaker neurons co-labeled with neurobiotin and glycine. Neurobiotin-labeled motor and pacemaker neurons are densely co-labeled with the gap junction protein connexin 35/36, supporting the hypothesis that transneuronal neurobiotin-labeling occurs, at least in part, via gap junction coupling. Serotonergic and catecholaminergic label is also robust within the entire vocal CPG, with additional cholinergic label in pacemaker and prepacemaker nuclei. Likely sources of these putative modulatory inputs are neurons within or immediately adjacent to vocal CPG neurons. Together with prior neurophysiological investigations, the results reveal potential mechanisms for generating multiple classes of social context-dependent vocalizations with widely divergent temporal and spectral properties.