Scientific reports

A reliable and flexible gene manipulation strategy in posthatch zebra finch brain.

PMID 28233828


Songbird models meaningfully contribute to many fields including learned vocal communication, the neurobiology of social interactions, brain development, and ecology. The value of investigating gene-brain-behavior relationships in songbirds is therefore high. Viral infections typically used in other lab animals to deliver gene editing constructs have been less effective in songbirds, likely due to immune system properties. We therefore leveraged the in vivo electroporation strategy used in utero in rodents and in ovo in poultry, and apply it to posthatch zebra finch songbird chicks. We present a series of experiments with a combination of promoters, fluorescent protein genes, and piggyBac transposase vectors to demonstrate that this can be a reliable, efficient, and flexible strategy for genome manipulation. We discuss options for gene delivery experiments to test circuit and behavioral hypotheses using a variety of manipulations, including gene overexpression, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, inducible technologies, optogenetic or DREADD cellular control, and cell type-specific expression.