Transcriptome analysis of genes and gene networks involved in aggressive behavior in mouse and zebrafish

Karim Malki, Ebba Du Rietz, Wim E Crusio, Oliver Pain, Jose Paya-Cano, Rezhaw L Karadaghi, Frans Sluyter, Sietse F de Boer, Kenneth Sandnabba, Leonard C Schalkwyk, Philip Asherson, Maria Grazia Tosto

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Despite moderate heritability estimates, the molecular architecture of aggressive behavior remains poorly characterized. This study compared gene expression profiles from a genetic mouse model of aggression with zebrafish, an animal model traditionally used to study aggression. A meta-analytic, cross-species approach was used to identify genomic variants associated with aggressive behavior. The Rankprod algorithm was used to evaluated mRNA differences from prefrontal cortex tissues of three sets of mouse lines (N = 18) selectively bred for low and high aggressive behavior (SAL/LAL, TA/TNA, and NC900/NC100). The same approach was used to evaluate mRNA differences in zebrafish (N = 12) exposed to aggressive or non-aggressive social encounters. Results were compared to uncover genes consistently implicated in aggression across both studies. Seventy-six genes were differentially expressed (PFP < 0.05) in aggressive compared to non-aggressive mice. Seventy genes were differentially expressed in zebrafish exposed to a fight encounter compared to isolated zebrafish. Seven genes (Fos, Dusp1, Hdac4, Ier2, Bdnf, Btg2, and Nr4a1) were differentially expressed across both species 5 of which belonging to a gene-network centred on the c-Fos gene hub. Network analysis revealed an association with the MAPK signaling cascade. In human studies HDAC4 haploinsufficiency is a key genetic mechanism associated with brachydactyly mental retardation syndrome (BDMR), which is associated with aggressive behaviors. Moreover, the HDAC4 receptor is a drug target for valproic acid, which is being employed as an effective pharmacological treatment for aggressive behavior in geriatric, psychiatric, and brain-injury patients. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics. Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Early online date19 Apr 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Apr 2016


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