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Nov 10, 2020

Two genes regulate social dominance

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry

Rank in social hierarchy is a condition not solely claimed by humans. In the animal kingdom, male peacocks exhibit brightly colored plumes to illustrate dominance, and underwater, male fish show pops of bright colors to do the same. Despite the links identified between social status, physiology and behavior, the molecular basis of social status has not been known, until now.

“We discovered that two paralogous androgen receptor genes control social status in African cichlid fish,” reports Beau Alward in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Alward is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston with a joint appointment in biology and biochemistry. Paralogs are duplicate genes; androgens are hormones like testosterone necessary for male sexual development.

“Testosterone binds to to exert its effects. What we found through genome editing is that the two genes encoding these receptors are required for different aspects of social status,” said Alward. “This type of coordination of social status may be fundamental across species that rely on social information to optimally guide physiology and behavior.”

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