Assessment of fight outcome is needed to activate socially driven transcriptional changes in the zebrafish brain

Rui F. Oliveira, José M. Simes, Magda C. Teles, Catarina R. Oliveira, Jorg D. Becker, João S. Lopes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Group living animals must be able to express different behavior profiles depending on their social status. Therefore, the same genotype may translate into different behavioral phenotypes through socially driven differential gene expression. However, how social information is translated into a neurogenomic response and what are the specific cues in a social interaction that signal a change in social status are questions that have remained unanswered. Here, we show for the first time, to our knowledge, that the switch between statusspecific neurogenomic states relies on the assessment of fight outcome rather than just on self-or opponent-only assessment of fighting ability. For this purpose, we manipulated the perception of fight outcome in male zebrafish and measured its impact on the brain transcriptome using a zebrafish whole genome gene chip. Males fought either a real opponent, and a winner and a loser were identified, or their own image on a mirror, in which case, despite expressing aggressive behavior, males did not experience either a victory or a defeat. Massive changes in the brain transcriptome were observed in real opponent fighters, with losers displaying both a higher number of differentially expressed genes and of coexpressed gene modules than winners. In contrast, mirror fighters expressed a neurogenomic state similar to that of noninteracting fish. The genes that responded to fight outcome included immediate early genes and genes involved in neuroplasticity and epigenetic modifications. These results indicate that, even in cognitively simple organisms such as zebrafish, neurogenomic responses underlying changes in social status rely on mutual assessment of fighting ability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E654-E661
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of fight outcome is needed to activate socially driven transcriptional changes in the zebrafish brain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this