Aggressive behavior in humans: Genes and pathways identified through association studies

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2016 Jul;171(5):676-96. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32419. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Aggressive behavior has both genetic and environmental components. Many association studies have been performed to identify genetic factors underlying aggressive behaviors in humans. In this review we summarize the previous work performed in this field, considering both candidate gene (CGAS) and genome-wide association studies (GWAS), excluding those performed in samples where the primary diagnosis is a psychiatric or neurological disorder other than an aggression-related phenotype. Subsequently, we have studied the enrichment of pathways and functions in GWAS data. The results of our searches show that most CGAS have identified associations with genes involved in dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission and in hormone regulation. On the other hand, GWAS have not yet identified genome-wide significant associations, but top nominal findings are related to several signaling pathways, such as axon guidance or estrogen receptor signaling, and also to neurodevelopmental processes and synaptic plasticity. Future studies should use larger samples, homogeneous phenotypes and standardized measurements to identify genes that underlie aggressive behaviors in humans. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: GWAS; aggression; association studies; candidate genes; genetics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Genetic Association Studies / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Social Behavior