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Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is widely distributed in the brain of fishes where it may function as a neuromodulator of sensory processing and behavior. Immunocytochemical and neuronal label experiments were conducted on species from four families of coral reef fishes (Chaetodontidae, butterflyfish; Pomacentridae, damselfish; Gobiidae, goby; and Labridae, wrasse) to assess conservation of GnRH targets in the visual processing retina and brain. In all species, GnRH-immunoreactive (-ir) axons from the terminal nerve project principally to the boundary between the inner plexiform (IPL) and inner nuclear (INL) layers of the retina, and are less prominent in the optic nerve, ganglion cell, IPL and INL. However, the density of GnRH innervation within the retina differed among fish species with highest concentrations in the damselfish and butterflyfish and lowest in the goby and wrasse. Experiments also show that GnRH receptors are associated with GnRH-ir axons within the fish retina primarily at the IPL-INL boundary, the region of light-dark adaptation and image processing of contrast, motion or color. GnRH-ir axons overlapped central projections of retinal ganglion cell axons primarily within the stratum album centrale and stratum griseum centrale of the tectum in all species, and were concentrated in several diencephalic visual processing centers. GnRH receptors are also localized to diencephalic visual centers and the stratum griseum periventriculare of the tectum, where motion perception and coordination of motor behavioral responses in three-dimensional space occur. This work demonstrates that the basic neural substrates for peptide-sensory convergence are conserved at multiple processing levels in the visual system of several reef fishes. Species differences in GnRH innervation to the retina and GnRH receptor distributions may be related to phylogeny, their use of vision in natural behaviors, or possibly binding properties of the antibodies. Future studies are needed to characterize the exact GnRH variants and receptor types found in these species so that possible functional consequences of GnRH influence on vision can be defined. Copyright © 2007 S. Karger AG.

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Brain, Behavior and Evolution

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