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Annu Rev Genet. 2012;46:145-64. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155514. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Genetics of aggression.

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  • 1Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7617, USA. anholt@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Aggression mediates competition for food, mating partners, and habitats and, among social animals, establishes stable dominance hierarchies. In humans, abnormal aggression is a hallmark of neuropsychiatric disorders and can be elicited by environmental factors acting on an underlying genetic susceptibility. Identifying the genetic architecture that predisposes to aggressive behavior in people is challenging because of difficulties in quantifying the phenotype, genetic heterogeneity, and uncontrolled environmental conditions. Studies on mice have identified single-gene mutations that result in hyperaggression, contingent on genetic background. These studies can be complemented by systems genetics approaches in Drosophila melanogaster, in which mutational analyses together with genome-wide transcript analyses, artificial selection studies, and genome-wide analysis of epistasis have revealed that a large segment of the genome contributes to the manifestation of aggressive behavior with widespread epistatic interactions. Comparative genomic analyses based on the principle of evolutionary conservation are needed to enable a complete dissection of the neurogenetic underpinnings of this universal fitness trait.

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