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Seasonal but not sex-biased gene expression of the carotenoid ketolase, CYP2J19, in the sexually dichromatic southern red bishop (Euplectes orix).

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Lindsay, Willow R 
Slight, Mathilda Waleij 
Andersson, Mats X 


Intense red colours in birds are often owing to ketocarotenoids (KCs). In many land birds, KCs are oxidized from dietary yellow precursors, presumably by the avian carotenoid ketolase CYP2J19, the regulation and constraints of which have important implications for condition-dependence and honest signalling of carotenoid colour displays. We investigated hepatic CYP2J19 gene expression in the seasonally and sexually dichromatic southern red bishop (Euplectes orix) in relation to season, sex, progression of the prenuptial moult, testis size, body condition, redness and circulating sex steroids. A coloration function of CYP2J19 is supported by a seasonal upregulation prior to and during the carotenoid-depositing stage of the male prenuptial moult. However, CYP2J19 expression was similarly high in females (which do not moult prenuptially), and remained high in males after moult, suggesting additional or alternative roles of hepatic CYP2J19 or its products, such as detoxification or antioxidant functions. In males, the CYP2J19 upregulation preceded and was unrelated to the rise in plasma testosterone, but was correlated with androstenedione, probably of adrenal origin and compatible with luteinizing hormone-induced and (in females) oestrogen-suppressed moult. Finally, contrary to ideas that carotenoid ketolation rate mediates honest signalling of male quality, CYP2J19 expression was not related to plumage redness or male body condition.


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Carl Tryggers Stiftelse för Vetenskaplig Forskning; Id:

Funder: Rådman och Fru Ernst Collianders Stiftelse för Välgörande Ändamål; Id:

Funder: Stiftelsen Längmanska Kulturfonden; Id:

Funder: Kungliga Vetenskaps- och Vitterhetssamhället

Funder: Stiftelsen Lars Hiertas Minne; Id:


CYP2J19, androstenedione, carotenoid metabolism, ketocarotenoids, plumage coloration, testosterone

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R Soc Open Sci

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The Royal Society
Swedish Research Council (2015-04800)