Characterization of cell proliferation throughout the brain of the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni and its regulation by social status



New cells are added in the brains of all adult vertebrates, but fishes have some of the greatest potential for neurogenesis and gliogenesis among all taxa, partly due to their indeterminate growth. Little is known, however, about how social interactions influence cell proliferation in the brain of these fishes that comprise the largest group of vertebrates. We used 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to identify and localize proliferation zones in the telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, and rhombencephalon that were primarily associated with ventricular surfaces in the brain of the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. Cell migration was evident in some regions by 1 day post injection, and many newborn cells coexpressed the neuronal marker HuC/D at 30 days, suggesting they had differentiated into neurons. To test the hypothesis that social status and perception of an opportunity to rise in rank influenced cell proliferation, we compared numbers of BrdU-labeled cells in multiple brain nuclei among fish of different social status. Socially suppressed subordinate males had the lowest numbers of proliferating cells in all brain regions examined, but males that were given an opportunity to rise in status had higher cell proliferation rates within 1 day, suggesting rapid upregulation of brain mitotic activity associated with this social transition. Furthermore, socially isolated dominant males had similar numbers of BrdU-labeled cells compared with dominant males that were housed in a socially rich environment, suggesting that isolation has little effect on proliferation and that reduced proliferation in subordinates is a result of the social subordination. These results suggest that A. burtoni will be a useful model to analyze the mechanisms of socially induced neurogenesis in vertebrates. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:3471–3491, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.