Slutty voles & generous humans

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJan 23, 2008 2:05 AM


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Variation in neural V1aR predicts sexual fidelity and space use among male prairie voles in semi-natural settings:

Although prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are socially monogamous,^ males vary in both sexual and spatial fidelity. Most males form^ pairbonds, cohabit with one female, and defend territories.^ Wandering males, in contrast, have expansive home ranges that^ overlap many males and females. In the laboratory, pairing is^ regulated by arginine vasopressin and its predominant CNS receptor,^ vasopressin 1a receptor (V1aR). We investigated individual differences^ in forebrain V1aR expression of male prairie voles in mixed-sex^ seminatural enclosures. Individual differences in V1aR were^ compared with space use measured by radio telemetry and paternity^ determined with microsatellite markers. Animals engaging in^ extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs) as either wanderers or paired^ residents overlapped significantly more in same- and opposite-sex^ home ranges. Surprisingly, neither social fidelity measured^ by space use nor sexual fidelity measured by paternity was associated^ with V1aR expression in the ventral pallidum (VPall) or lateral^ septum, areas causally related to pairbond formation. In contrast,^ V1aR expression in the posterior cingulate/retrosplenial cortex^ (PCing) and laterodorsal thalamus (LDThal), areas implicated^ in spatial memory, strongly covaried with space use and paternity.^ Animals engaging in EPFs either as wanderers or paired residents^ exhibited low levels of LDThal and PCing V1aR expression. Individual^ differences in brain and behavior parallel differences between^ prairie voles and promiscuous congeners. The concordance among^ space use, paternity, and V1aR in spatial circuits suggests^ a common link between the mechanisms of spatial behaviors and^ success at EPF.

The combined data demonstrate how organismal^ biology can inform our understanding of individual and species^ differences in behavioral mechanisms.

Of course, the whole idea of using an organism like a vole is to generalize. Because theoretically Nature is One. So, Individual differences in allocation of funds in the dictator game associated with length of the arginine vasopressin 1a receptor RS3 promoter region and correlation between RS3 length and hippocampal mRNA:

A game that most plainly shows this altruistic tendency is the Dictator Game. We hypothesized that human altruistic behavior is to some extent hardwired and that a likely candidate that may contribute to individual differences in altruistic behavior is the arginine vasopressin 1a (AVPR1a) receptor that in some mammals such as the vole has a profound impact on affiliative behaviors. In the current investigation, 203 male and female university students played an online version of the Dictator Game, for real money payoffs. All subjects and their parents were genotyped for AVPR1a RS1 and RS3 promoter-region repeat polymorphisms. Parents did not participate in online game playing. As variation in the length of a repetitive element in the vole AVPR1a promoter region is associated with differences in social behavior, we examined the relationship between RS1 and RS3 repeat length (base pairs) and allocation sums. Participants with short versions...of the AVPR1a RS3 repeat allocated significantly...fewer shekels to the 'other' than participants with long versions...Dictator game allocations were significantly associated with the RS3 repeat...The association between the AVPR1a RS3 repeat and altruism was also confirmed using two self-report scales...RS3 long alleles were associated with higher scores on both measures. Finally, long AVPR1a RS3 repeats were associated with higher AVPR1a human post-mortem hippocampal messenger RNA levels than short RS3 repeats...suggesting a functional molecular genetic basis for the observation that participants with the long RS3 repeats allocate more money than participants with the short repeats. This is the first investigation showing that a common human polymorphism, with antecedents in lower mammals, contributes to decision making in an economic game. The finding that the same gene contributing to social bonding in lower animals also appears to operate similarly in human behavior suggests a common evolutionary mechanism.

Learn all about the human gene here.

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