Article

The relationship between DRD4 polymorphisms and phenotypic correlations of behaviors in the collared flycatcher

Ecology and Evolution (Impact Factor: 1.66). 04/2014; 4(8):1466-79. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1041
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT There is increasing evidence that the genetic architecture of exploration behavior includes the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4). Such a link implies that the within-individual consistency in the same behavior has a genetic basis. Behavioral consistency is also prevalent in the form of between-individual correlation of functionally different behaviors; thus, the relationship between DRD4 polymorphism and exploration may also be manifested for other behaviors. Here, in a Hungarian population of the collared flycatcher, Ficedula albicollis, we investigate how males with distinct DRD4 genotypes differ in the consistent elements of their behavioral displays during the courtship period. In completely natural conditions, we assayed novelty avoidance, aggression and risk-taking, traits that were previously shown repeatable over time and correlate with each other, suggesting that they could have a common mechanistic basis. We identified two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP554 and SNP764) in the exon 3 of the DRD4 gene by sequencing a subsample, then we screened 202 individuals of both sexes for these SNPs. Focusing on the genotypic variation in courting males, we found that "AC" heterozygote individuals at the SNP764 take lower risk than the most common "AA" homozygotes (the "CC" homozygotes were not represented in our subsample of males). We also found a considerable effect size for the relationship between SNP554 polymorphism and novelty avoidance. Therefore, in addition to exploration, DRD4 polymorphisms may also be associated with the regulation of behaviors that may incur fear or stress. Moreover, polymorphisms at the two SNPs were not independent indicating a potential role for genetic constraints or another functional link, which may partially explain behavioral correlations.

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Available from: János Török, May 16, 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies indicate that polymorphisms of the DRD4 gene may be related to behavioural variation in mammals and birds. The purpose of this study was to ascertain a connection between DRD4 genotypes and behavioural patterns in a wild passerine bird during breeding time. We evaluated changes in birds’ parental provisioning behaviour in the presence of a novel object. As a behavioural trait, we measured the duration of feeding interruption from the first time that each bird noticed the novel object until they entered the nest box. We found a gender-specific association between DRD4 gene polymorphism and parental behaviour. Males with a CC genotype delayed feeding for a longer period than those with CT and TT genotypes. No significant effect of genotype on provisioning behaviour was observed among females. We conclude that (i) DRD4 gene polymorphism in wild birds can be associated with behaviour related to fearfulness, and (ii) this effect is supposedly gender-specific during the breeding time, potentially explained by sex differences in parental care or hormonal levels.
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