Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 503444
Title Evidence from pyrosequencing indicates that natural variation in animal personality is associated with DRD4 DNA methylation
Author(s) Verhulst, Eveline C.; Mateman, A.C.; Zwier, Mathijs V.; Caro, Samuel P.; Verhoeven, Koen J.F.; Oers, Kees Van
Source Molecular Ecology 25 (2016)8. - ISSN 0962-1083 - p. 1801 - 1811.
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.13519
Department(s) Laboratory of Genetics
Behavioural Ecology
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) behaviour - birds - DNA methylation - epigenetics - personality
Abstract

Personality traits are heritable and respond to natural selection, but are at the same time influenced by the ontogenetic environment. Epigenetic effects, such as DNA methylation, have been proposed as a key mechanism to control personality variation. However, to date little is known about the contribution of epigenetic effects to natural variation in behaviour. Here, we show that great tit (Parus major) lines artificially selected for divergent exploratory behaviour for four generations differ in their DNA methylation levels at the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene. This D4 receptor is statistically associated with personality traits in both humans and nonhuman animals, including the great tit. Previous work in this songbird failed to detect functional genetic polymorphisms within DRD4 that could account for the gene-trait association. However, our observation supports the idea that DRD4 is functionally involved in exploratory behaviour but that its effects are mediated by DNA methylation. While the exact mechanism underlying the transgenerational consistency of DRD4 methylation remains to be elucidated, this study shows that epigenetic mechanisms are involved in shaping natural variation in personality traits. We outline how this first finding provides a basis for investigating the epigenetic contribution to personality traits in natural systems and its subsequent role for understanding the ecology and evolution of behavioural consistency.

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