Mating system and avpr1a promoter variation in primates

Biol Lett. 2008 Aug 23;4(4):375-8. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0122.


It has been suggested that primate mating and social behaviours may be influenced by variation in promoter region repetitive DNA of the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (avpr1a). We show that male mating behaviour does not covary in a simple way with promoter repetitive DNA in 12 Old World primates. We found that one microsatellite (-553 bp upstream) was present in all species, irrespective of their behaviour. By contrast, two microsatellites (-3956 and -3625 bp upstream) were present only in some species, yet this variation did not correlate with behaviour. These findings agree with a recent comparative analysis of voles and show that the variation in repetitive DNA in the avpr1a promoter region does not generally explain variation in male mating behaviour. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a GAGTA motif that has been independently deleted three times and involved in another larger deletion. Importantly, the presence/absence of this GAGTA motif leads to changes in predicted transcription factor-binding sites. Given the repeated loss of this motif, we speculate that it might be of functional relevance. We suggest that such non-repetitive variation, either in indels or in sequence variation, are likely to be important in explaining interspecific variation in avpr1a expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catarrhini / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Pair Bond*
  • Phylogeny
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics*
  • Social Behavior
  • Species Specificity


  • Receptors, Vasopressin