According to Grozinger, the results suggest that model organisms -- such as bees and mice -- can be used to study aggression in humans because they share some of the same genes that regulate aggression behaviors, even if those behaviors are now quite different.
In addition to learning that aggression genes are shared among organisms, the team also found that these genes are extremely sensitive to the external environment.
"We found that the most important influence on expression of genes in the brains of paper wasps was external factors, such as the season and how large the colony was at the time," Toth said. "This indicates the important role of external cues in shaping the molecular processes that regulate behavior."
The results, which appear today (Feb. 10) in BMC Genomics, provide new insight into the debate between nature and nurture, according to Grozinger.
"Everyone agrees that both nature -- including genes and physiology -- and nurture -- including diet, environment and social interactions -- contribute to the likelihood that an individual will behave in a certain way or develop a disease," Grozinger said. "But our results show that the external environment plays a much greater role in regulating expression of genes in the brain, which ultimately regulates behavior, than physiology. This is very surprising."
The scientists plan to use their findings
|Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer|