Neural plasticity

Hunting increases phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II in adult barn owls.

PMID 25789177


Juvenile barn owls readily adapt to prismatic spectacles, whereas adult owls living under standard aviary conditions do not. We previously demonstrated that phosphorylation of the cyclic-AMP response element-binding protein (CREB) provides a readout of the instructive signals that guide plasticity in juveniles. Here we investigated phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (pCaMKII) in both juveniles and adults. In contrast to CREB, we found no differences in pCaMKII expression between prism-wearing and control juveniles within the external nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICX), the major site of plasticity. For prism-wearing adults that hunted live mice and are capable of adaptation, expression of pCaMKII was increased relative to prism-wearing adults that fed passively on dead mice and are not capable of adaptation. This effect did not bear the hallmarks of instructive information: it was not localized to rostral ICX and did not exhibit a patchy distribution reflecting discrete bimodal stimuli. These data are consistent with a role for CaMKII as a permissive rather than an instructive factor. In addition, the paucity of pCaMKII expression in passively fed adults suggests that the permissive default setting is "off" in adults.