Arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OXT) are social hormones and mediate affiliative behaviors in mammals and as recently demonstrated, also in humans. There is intense interest in how these simple nonapeptides mediate normal and abnormal behavior, especially regarding disorders of the social brain such as autism that are characterized by deficits in social communication and social skills. The current review examines in detail the behavioral genetics of the first level of human AVP-OXT pathway genes including arginine vasopressin 1a receptor (AVPR1a), oxytocin receptor (OXTR), AVP (AVP-neurophysin II [NPII]) and OXT (OXT neurophysin I [NPI]), oxytocinase/vasopressinase (LNPEP), ADP-ribosyl cyclase (CD38) and arginine vasopressin 1b receptor (AVPR1b). Wherever possible we discuss evidence from a variety of research tracks including molecular genetics, imaging genomics, pharmacology and endocrinology that support the conclusions drawn from association studies of social phenotypes and detail how common polymorphisms in AVP-OXT pathway genes contribute to the behavioral hard wiring that enables individual Homo sapiens to interact successfully with conspecifics. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.
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