Genetic architecture for human aggression: A study of gene-phenotype relationship in OMIM

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2016 Jul;171(5):641-9. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32363. Epub 2015 Aug 19.


Genetic studies of human aggression have mainly focused on known candidate genes and pathways regulating serotonin and dopamine signaling and hormonal functions. These studies have taught us much about the genetics of human aggression, but no genetic locus has yet achieved genome-significance. We here present a review based on a paradoxical hypothesis that studies of rare, functional genetic variations can lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying complex multifactorial disorders such as aggression. We examined all aggression phenotypes catalogued in Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM), an Online Catalog of Human Genes and Genetic Disorders. We identified 95 human disorders that have documented aggressive symptoms in at least one individual with a well-defined genetic variant. Altogether, we retrieved 86 causal genes. Although most of these genes had not been implicated in human aggression by previous studies, the most significantly enriched canonical pathways had been previously implicated in aggression (e.g., serotonin and dopamine signaling). Our findings provide strong evidence to support the causal role of these pathways in the pathogenesis of aggression. In addition, the novel genes and pathways we identified suggest additional mechanisms underlying the origins of human aggression. Genome-wide association studies with very large samples will be needed to determine if common variants in these genes are risk factors for aggression. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: OMIM; aggression; genetics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genetic Association Studies / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors