Journal of neurophysiology

Androgen-induced vocal transformation in adult female African clawed frogs.

PMID 15758050


Sex-specific behaviors of some vertebrates are reversible by androgen administered in adulthood. Such behavioral transformations in adulthood provide opportunities to identify how neural systems reconfigure to produce sex-specific behavior. In this study, we focused on the vocalizations of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Male and female adult Xenopus produce sexually distinct vocalizations; males produce series of rapid clicks, whereas females produce slow trains of clicks. The differences in click rate can be reduced to differences in the firing rate of laryngeal motoneurons in vivo. This behavioral dimorphism is accompanied by various sex-specific characteristics throughout the vocal pathways, including functionally distinct laryngeal muscles and motoneurons in the sexes. In this study, we first determined whether and how testosterone (T) modifies the vocalizations of adult females and then examined changes underlying the behavioral modification at the laryngeal muscle and motoneuron levels. Our results show that, in response to T, the vocalizations of females were transformed within 13 wk. Vocal transformation was preceded by complete masculinization of muscle contractile properties and motoneuron soma size by the fourth week of T treatment, which suggests that the vocal pathways' peripheral components masculinize earlier than the behavior. Therefore the rate of transformation of vocal behavior must reflect a functional transformation of neurons in the central vocal pathways, which leads to the generation of male-like motor rhythms.