Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 223, Issue 9, pp 3975–4003 | Cite as

Immediate early gene expression related to learning and retention of a visual discrimination task in bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium griseum)

  • Theodora FussEmail author
  • Vera Schluessel
Original Article


Using the expression of the immediate early gene (IEG) egr-1 as a neuronal activity marker, brain regions potentially involved in learning and long-term memory functions in the grey bamboo shark were assessed with respect to selected visual discrimination abilities. Immunocytochemistry revealed a significant up-regulation of egr-1 expression levels in a small region of the telencephalon of all trained sharks (i.e., ‘early’ and ‘late learners’, ‘recallers’) when compared to three control groups (i.e., ‘controls’, ‘undisturbed swimmers’, ‘constant movers’). There was also a well-defined difference in egr-1 expression patterns between the three control groups. Additionally, some staining was observed in diencephalic and mesencephalic sections; however, staining here was weak and occurred only irregularly within and between groups. Therefore, it could have either resulted from unintentional cognitive or non-cognitive inducements (i.e., relating to the mental processes of perception, learning, memory, and judgment, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes) rather than being a training effect. Present findings emphasize a relationship between the training conditions and the corresponding egr-1 expression levels found in the telencephalon of Chiloscyllium griseum. Results suggest important similarities in the neuronal plasticity and activity-dependent IEG expression of the elasmobranch brain with other vertebrate groups. The presence of the egr-1 gene seems to be evolutionarily conserved and may therefore be particularly useful for identifying functional neural responses within this group.


Immediate early gene (IEG) egr-1 Immunocytochemistry Shark Learning Memory retention 



We would like to thank Dr. N. Krützfeldt and K. Stehr laboratory support and S. Braun for animal care taking and maintenance. We specifically thank C. Scharff and A. Nshdejan as well as T. Ruhl for help with the IEG protocols and procedures. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their expert comments, which helped to improve our manuscript. The research reported herein was performed under the guidelines established by the current German animal protection law and had been approved by the Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz NRW (Approval number 8.87- Funding was provided by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to Dr. Vera Schluessel (Grant number SCHL 1919/4-1).


Funding was provided by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to Dr. Vera Schluessel (Grant number SCHL 1919/4-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Theodora Fuss declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr. Vera Schluessel declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. There were no experiments involving humans or human material. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The research reported on bamboo sharks was performed under the guidelines established by the current German animal protection law and had been approved by the Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz NRW (Approval number 8.87-

Informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. There were no experiments involving humans or human material.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyRheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University BonnBonnGermany

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