How Genes Herited From Mom or Dad Could Change Behaviors

How Genes Herited From Mom or Dad Could Change Behaviors ...

Parenting is not the only way moms and dads make a difference in their offspring''s behavior. Genes also matter, although most of our genes are inherited in pairsone copy from each parentmoms and dads exert their respective genetic influence in different ways. According to new research atUniversity of Utah Health, each parent has their own impact on hormones and other chemical messengers that regulate mood and behavior.

According toChristopher Gregg, a PhD, who is a principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology at U of U Health. Gaining a clear picture of the genetic factors that influence behavior is a vital step towards developing improved treatment strategies and therapies for psychiatric disorders.

The Greggs research team said that certain groups of mice'' brains depend exclusively on the mothers copy of a gene that is required to produce essential chemical messengers in the brain, called neurotransmitters. However, in one organ, the adrenal gland, certain cells favor the fathers copy of the same gene. There, the gene is involved in producing the stress hormone, adrenaline.

Greggs team uncovered that each parent gene had different consequences for behavior after identifying this unexpected change in parental control of a single gene. Several factors were found to be influence on sons and daughters, while fathers held control of certain decision-making when the family was born.

According to Gregg, this form of genetic regulation may differ from the parent''s priorities. Not everybody has the same interests, outcomes, and selective effects, he says. Daughters often disperse and will go to new environments. Consequently, it may be in the parents'' interest to influence behavior differently in their sons and daughters.

"The fact that maternal and paternal alleles of the same gene along the brain-adrenal axis might have disparate, or even antagonistic, phenotypic consequences on behavior," says the authors.Paul Bonthuis, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Gregg describes the brain-adrenal axis as a vital component of mammalian biology that regulates behavior and affects stress, mood, metabolism, and decision-making. This research is a first step towards understanding how a parent genes might impact more routine behaviors and related health conditions in individuals, from mental illnesses and addiction to cancer and Alzheimers disease.

Defining Decision-Making

Gregg and his colleagues focused mainly on a gene called dopa decarboxylase, which is used by neurons to produce dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenalineneurotransmitters that regulate a wide range of functions from mood to movement.

Both parents copies of the dopa decarboxylase gene are active in the brain, but Gregg and his colleagues previously found a minor preference for the maternal copy. To investigate whether the dopa decarboxylase protein was localized to specific cells or brain regions, the team genetically engineered mice to include a fluorescent tag to the dopa decarboxylase enzymered if it was created using a gene from mom, blue if a gene from dad had been used. Then they might

Researchers found eleven zones where a family copy of the dopa decarboxylase gene was used in the adrenal gland, where it is required to produce the adrenaline hormone that triggers flight or stress response. They also uncovered groups of cells that depended solely on the gene copy obtained from their father.

The study found that dopa decarboxylase is so important for stress, fear, anxiety, and reward processing, and that this imprinting encouraged either parent to have greater influence on certain behaviors in their children.

mice with mutations in either copy of the gene were able to experiment with food and were free to explore, acting on conflicting anxieties and motivations as they resumed foraging in the wild. By breaking foraging behavior down into modules, they identified behavioral differences.

This evidence suggests that switching off one parent copy in a certain group of cells is sufficient to have significant impact on behavior. Gregg claims his team has suggested that several genes are subjected to this type of bias toward using one parent copy.

I dream of developing a new area of decision genetics, where we systematically uncover parental gene copies that control specific decisions and actions in particular situations. Such studies might lead researchers to cells and neural circuits with previously unrecognized behaviors.

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