Gene Expression

The post below on AVPR1A and fidelity alluded to the fact that this locus has been implicated in many other behavioral traits. I spent some of today digging through the literature. So check it….

AVPR1a and SLC6A4 Gene Polymorphisms Are Associated with Creative Dance Performance

AVPR1A and OXTR polymorphisms are associated with sexual and reproductive behavioral phenotypes in humans

Link Between Vasopressin Receptor AVPR1A Promoter Region Microsatellites and Measures of Social Behavior in Humans

Association between a vasopressin receptor AVPR1A promoter region microsatellite and eating behavior measured by a self-report questionnaire (Eating Attitudes Test) in a family-based study of a nonclinical population

Provisional evidence that the arginine vasopressin 1a receptor gene is associated with musical memory

Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game

Individual Differences in Allocation of Funds in the Dictator Game Associated with Length of the Arginine Vasopressin 1a Receptor (AVPR1a) RS3 Promoter-region and Correlation between RS3 Length and Hippocampal mRNA

Let me quote from the last study:

Parents did not participate in online game playing. Since 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 postmortem hippocampal mRNA 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.

In other words, the molecular genetic processes which might underlay all these coarse phenotypic variations might be rather simple, the extent of the repeated genomic region has a proportional relationship to the dosage of the gene product. The product itself has a proportional relationship to particular phenotypes. Many of these behavioral traits are probably mediated by some global personality trait which affects them; e.g., impulsiveness modulating time preference and the ability to consider how selfish actions in the near term might affect one’s life in the long term. Also, let me reiterate that the balance between various repeat length alleles on this locus might be governed by simple hawk-dove dynamics.

Related: Also check out DRD4 and DRD2.


  1. #1 agnostic
    September 3, 2008

    Yet another reason to date or marry a dancer: they’re more likely to be tender-hearted, empathetic, cooperative, and bonding — to be more feminine.

    Next, they need to run these tests on elite law school students.

  2. #2 agnostic
    September 3, 2008

    I wonder if there’s a Greenbeard Effect here. The allele makes you a better dancer and more social — assuming that social, extroverted people are more likely than autisticky people to value dancing ability in a mate, the gene affects both an observable trait and a preference for it.

  3. #3 Kosmo
    September 3, 2008

    It’s interesting to speculate how the AVPR1 gene might interact with the DRD4 gene, perhaps creating a modulating effect in regard to behavioral expression.

    Another interesting interaction would be between the conditions of bi-polar and Asperger’s syndrome. (Both of which have distinct genetic underpinnings, and so could be found in the same person.)

    Such interactions might go a long way toward shedding some light on the long tails of the curve.

    I’ve also often wondered how a person with the 7-repeat version of DRD4 might be impacted by a genetic predispostion to Asperger’s, since the effects of those two sets of genes would appear to be antogonistic in many ways. Such people MUST exist, they’d just be rare.

  4. #4 Free Researcher
    September 3, 2008

    I look for this gene via BioGPS ( – it also involved into many non-behavior processes. Let me quote:

    # receptor activity (GO:0004872)
    # rhodopsin-like receptor activity (GO:0001584)
    # V1A vasopressin receptor binding (GO:0031894)
    # vasopressin receptor activity (GO:0005000)
    # protein kinase C binding (GO:0005080)
    # peptide hormone binding (GO:0017046)

    It’s too much for ‘gene for musical memory’. Its like a central regulatory proteins (there was article at PLoS about that genes); and, IMHO, correlation search (expression and creative dancing, expression and trust games) almost useless here.

  5. #5 caroline
    November 12, 2008

    Can you explain to me if the variant in APVR1a discussed in terms of creative dance, altruism, monogamy, reproductive behavior, sibling relationships, self presentation style ; is the same? Not being a scientist, trying to sort out the connection. Thank you.