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Adding ‘epi-’ to behaviour genetics: implications for animaldomestication
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Biology. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology. (AVIAN Behav Genom & Physiol Group)
2015 (English)In: Journal of Experimental Biology, ISSN 0022-0949, E-ISSN 1477-9145, Vol. 218, no 1-5, 32-40 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this review, it is argued that greatly improved understanding ofdomestication may be gained from extending the field of behaviourgenetics to also include epigenetics. Domestication offers aninteresting framework of rapid evolutionary changes caused by welldefinedselection pressures. Behaviour is an important phenotype inthis context, as it represents the primary means of response toenvironmental challenges. An overview is provided of the evidencefor genetic involvement in behavioural control and the presently usedmethods for finding so-called behaviour genes. This shows thatevolutionary changes in behaviour are to a large extent correlated tochanges in patterns of gene expression, which brings epigenetics intothe focus. This area is concerned with the mechanisms controllingthe timing and extent of gene expression, and a lot of focus has beenplaced on methylation of cytosine in promoter regions, usuallyassociated with genetic downregulation. The review considers theavailable evidence that environmental input, for example stress, canmodify methylation and other epigenetic marks and subsequentlyaffect behaviour. Furthermore, several studies are reviewed,demonstrating that acquired epigenetic modifications can be inheritedand cause trans-generational behaviour changes. In conclusion,epigenetics may signify a new paradigm in this respect, as it showsthat genomic modifications can be caused by environmental signals,and random mutations in DNA sequence are therefore not the onlysources of heritable genetic variation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
The Company if Biologists Ltd , 2015. Vol. 218, no 1-5, 32-40 p.
Keyword [en]
Methylation, Epigenetics, Gene expression, Transgenerational effects
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-112988DOI: 10.1242/jeb.106799ISI: 000347472300006PubMedID: 25568449OAI: diva2:777063


This review is produced within the framework of the Swedish Center of Excellence in Animal Welfare Science, funded by FORMAS, and the LiU-Neuro network, funded by Linköping University and the county council of Östergötland. It is a part of the European Research Council Advanced Research Grant ‘GENEWELL – Genetics and epigenetics of animal welfare’ (ERC 322206).

Available from: 2015-01-08 Created: 2015-01-08 Last updated: 2015-02-25

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