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Identification of FoxP2 target genes

Iris Adam, Diploma Student

Genomic aberrations in the FoxP2 transcription factor cause developmental verbal dyspraxia [1], a severe speech and language disorder. The pathomechanism is likely to result from a misregulation of FoxP2 downstream target genes. Since speech learning in humans and song acquisition in songbirds are highly similar processes, we use the zebra finch as a model for further investigations. During the song learning period, FoxP2 increases significantly in Area X, a song-specific region within the zebra finch brain [2]. But although FoxP2 is known to play a role in speech and language, little is known about the molecular pathways affected. To further investigate the molecular background of speech and/or song acquisition, I aim to identify genes that are directly regulated by FoxP2 by using in vitro luciferase assays.
Furthermore, I will characterize candidate target genes in vivo by in situ-hybridisation and RNA quantification using Real-time PCR.

(1) Lai, C.S., et al., A forkhead-domain gene is mutated in a severe speech and language disorder. Nature, 2001. 413(6855): p. 519-23. (2) Haesler, S., et al., FoxP2 expression in avian vocal learners and non-learners. J Neurosci, 2004. 24(13): p. 3164-75.