Monday, June 27, 2022

How do parents’ genes determine children’s behavior?

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Scientists at the University of Utah have explained how genes from both parents influence children’s behavior. The findings are published in the journal ‘Mobile Reports

Parenting isn’t the only way parents influence their children’s behavior. Genes are also important. And while most of our genes are inherited in pairs, one copy from each parent, mothers and fathers has different genetic influences.

“We are very interested in the fact that there is an untapped area of ​​biology that drives our decisions,” said Christopher Gregg, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology.

He believes that gaining a better understanding of the genetic factors that influence behavior is a critical step toward developing better diagnoses and treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Gregg’s team reports that certain groups of cells in mouse brains rely solely on the mother’s copy of a gene needed to produce essential chemical messengers in the brain known as neurotransmitters.

The copy of the father’s gene is still turned off in those cells. However, certain cells in another organ, the adrenal gland, prefer the father’s copy of the same gene. The gene is involved in the production of the stress hormone adrenaline.

After discovering this unexpected shift in parental control over a single gene, Gregg’s team further showed that it had behavioral consequences, finding that each parent’s gene affected sons and daughters differently: Certain decisions in sons were determined by the gene. of their mother, while fathers had control over some decision-making in daughters.

According to Gregg, this type of genetic regulation may reflect different parental priorities. “Not everyone has the same interests, results and selective effects,” he said.

“Daughters have to raise litters. Sons often disperse and move to new environments.” As a result, it may be in the best interest of parents to influence the behavior of their sons and daughters differently.

“The discovery that maternal and paternal alleles of the same gene along the brain-adrenal axis can have disparate, or even antagonistic, phenotypic consequences for behavior is an intriguing observation,” said Paul Bonthuis, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Biosciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The brain-adrenal axis is a critical part of mammalian biology that regulates behavior and influences stress, mood, metabolism and decision-making,” Gregg said.

This discovery, he says, is a first step in understanding how a parent’s genes may influence more routine behavior and related health problems in people, ranging from mental illness and addiction to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

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