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Author Notes:

Email: Zoe R Donaldson* - zdonald@emory.edu

ZRD conceived the polymorphism identification studies, carried out molecular genetic studies and drafted the manuscript.

AP and FAK conceived and analyzed the directional selection studies, performed phylogenetic analysis and sequence alignment, and helped to draft the manuscript.

YB performed molecular genetic studies.

TLS and EADH conceived the investigation of the evolutionary history of this region.

LJY participated in study design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript.

We thank the caretakers at Zoo Atlanta and Yerkes National Primate Center for help with procuring specimens.

Additional DNA samples were supplied by Bill Hopkins, Emory University (chimpanzee), Allyson Bennet, Wake Forest University (chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, bonnet macaque), Mar Sanchez, Emory University (rhesus macaque), and Anne Yoder, Duke University (galago).

Susan Lambeth, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Katie Chace, Yerkes National Primate Center, helped provide records regarding the origins of wild born chimps at these centers.

We would like to thank Dr Lisa McGraw and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this manuscript.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by NSF IBN-9876754, NIH RR00165, NIMH56897 (LJY), MH64692 (LJY) and a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellowship (ZRD).

Evolution of a behavior-linked microsatellite-containing element in the 5' flanking region of the primate AVPR1A gene


Journal Title:

BMC Evolutionary Biology


Volume 8


Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Background The arginine vasopressin V1a receptor (V1aR) modulates social cognition and behavior in a wide variety of species. Variation in a repetitive microsatellite element in the 5' flanking region of the V1aR gene (AVPR1A) in rodents has been associated with variation in brain V1aR expression and in social behavior. In humans, the 5' flanking region of AVPR1A contains a tandem duplication of two ~350 bp, microsatellite-containing elements located approximately 3.5 kb upstream of the transcription start site. The first block, referred to as DupA, contains a polymorphic (GT)25 microsatellite; the second block, DupB, has a complex (CT)4-(TT)-(CT)8-(GT)24 polymorphic motif, known as RS3. Polymorphisms in RS3 have been associated with variation in sociobehavioral traits in humans, including autism spectrum disorders. Thus, evolution of these regions may have contributed to variation in social behavior in primates. We examined the structure of these regions in six ape, six monkey, and one prosimian species. Results Both tandem repeat blocks are present upstream of the AVPR1A coding region in five of the ape species we investigated, while monkeys have only one copy of this region. As in humans, the microsatellites within DupA and DupB are polymorphic in many primate species. Furthermore, both single (lacking DupB) and duplicated alleles (containing both DupA and DupB) are present in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) populations with allele frequencies of 0.795 and 0.205 for the single and duplicated alleles, respectively, based on the analysis of 47 wild-caught individuals. Finally, a phylogenetic reconstruction suggests two alternate evolutionary histories for this locus. Conclusion There is no obvious relationship between the presence of the RS3 duplication and social organization in primates. However, polymorphisms identified in some species may be useful in future genetic association studies. In particular, the presence of both single and duplicated alleles in chimpanzees provides a unique opportunity to assess the functional role of this duplication in contributing to variation in social behavior in primates. While our initial studies show no signs of directional selection on this locus in chimps, pharmacological and genetic association studies support a potential role for this region in influencing V1aR expression and social behavior.

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© 2008 Donaldson et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).

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