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Title: Seasonal regulation of behaviour: what role do hormone receptors play?
Many animals differentially express behaviours across the annual cycle as life stages are coordinated with seasonal environmental conditions. Understanding of the mechanistic basis of such seasonal changes in behaviour has traditionally focused on the role of changes in circulating hormone levels. However, it is increasingly apparent that other endocrine regulation mechanisms such as changes in local hormone synthesis and receptor abundance also play a role. Here I review what is known about seasonal changes in steroid hormone receptor abundance in relation to seasonal behaviour in vertebrates. I find that there is widespread, though not ubiquitous, seasonal variation in the expression of steroid hormone receptors in the brain, with such variation being best documented in association with courtship, mating and aggression. The most common pattern of seasonal variation is for there to be upregulation of sex steroid receptors with the expression of courtship and mating behaviours, when circulating hormone levels are also high. Less well-documented are cases in which seasonal increases in receptor expression could compensate for low circulating hormone levels or seasonal downregulation that could serve a protective function. I conclude by identifying important directions for future research.
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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