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Horm Behav. 2008 Nov;54(5):694-702. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.07.009. Epub 2008 Jul 30.

Field tests of cis-regulatory variation at the prairie vole avpr1a locus: association with V1aR abundance but not sexual or social fidelity.

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Department of Zoology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


The neuropeptide vasopressin and its receptor V1aR are broadly implicated in social behavior and play a central role in several key aspects of male mating tactics in voles. In the prairie vole, a microsatellite in the cis-regulatory region of the gene encoding V1aR (avpr1a) provides a potential genetic basis for individual variation in neural phenotype and behavior; recent studies found that allele length predicts V1aR expression and male social attachment in the laboratory. Here, we explore the relationship between avpr1a microsatellite length, V1aR neural phenotype, and field measures of monogamy and fitness in male prairie voles. We found significant effects of allele length on V1aR expression in structures integral to pairbond formation. These effects did not, however, translate to differences in mating tactics or reproductive success. Together, these data suggest that, while length polymorphism in the avpr1a microsatellite influences neuronal phenotype, this variation does not contribute significantly to male reproductive success and field behavior. We propose that previously reported behavioral effects may be mediated primarily by sequence variation at this locus, for which allele length is an imperfect proxy. By combining genetic, neuronal and ecological approaches, these data provide novel insights into the contribution of genotype to natural diversity in brain and behavior.

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