Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Find CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Approach Alters the Social Behavior of Animals

May 18, 2022

Scientists at Georgia State University have created gene-edited hamsters using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to study social neuroscience and found that the biology behind social behavior may be more complex than previously thought.

The research team led by Regents' Professor of Neuroscience H. Elliott Albers and Distinguished University Professor Kim Huhman used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to eliminate the actions of a neurochemical signaling pathway that plays a critical role in regulating social behaviors in mammals. Vasopressin, and the receptor that it acts on called Avpr1a, regulates social phenomena ranging from pair bonding, cooperation, and social communication to dominance and aggression. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), finds that knocking out the Avpr1a receptor in hamsters, and thus effectively eliminating vasopressin's action on it, has altered the expression of social behavior in unexpected ways.

The researchers anticipated that the hamsters without vasopressin would be less aggressive with reduced social communication, but they observed the opposite. Hamsters without the receptor showed much higher levels of social communication behavior than did their counterparts with intact receptors. The researchers also found that the typical sex differences observed in aggressiveness were eliminated with both male and female hamsters showing high levels of aggression towards other same-sex individuals.

The hamsters used in this research were Syrian hamsters, which have become increasingly important for studies of social behavior, aggression, and communication. Hamsters are the species in which vasopressin was first demonstrated to influence sociality. The social organization of hamsters is also similar in humans to those observed in mice.

For more details, read the article in Georgia State News Hub.

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