The Drosophila foraging gene human orthologue PRKG1 predicts individual differences in the effects of early adversity on maternal sensitivity

Cogn Dev. 2017 Apr;42:62-73. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2016.11.001. Epub 2016 Dec 28.


There is variation in the extent to which childhood adverse experience affects adult individual differences in maternal behavior. Genetic variation in the animal foraging gene, which encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase, contributes to variation in the responses of adult fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, to early life adversity and is also known to play a role in maternal behavior in social insects. Here we investigate genetic variation in the human foraging gene (PRKG1) as a predictor of individual differences in the effects of early adversity on maternal behavior in two cohorts. We show that the PRKG1 genetic polymorphism rs2043556 associates with maternal sensitivity towards their infants. We also show that rs2043556 moderates the association between self-reported childhood adversity of the mother and her later maternal sensitivity. Mothers with the TT allele of rs2043556 appeared buffered from the effects of early adversity, whereas mothers with the presence of a C allele were not. Our study used the Toronto Longitudinal Cohort (N=288 mother-16 month old infant pairs) and the Maternal Adversity and Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment Cohort (N=281 mother-18 month old infant pairs). Our findings expand the literature on the contributions of both genetics and gene-environment interactions to maternal sensitivity, a salient feature of the early environment relevant for child neurodevelopment.

Keywords: PRKG1; cGMP-dependent protein kinase; development; early adversity; foraging; gene-environment interaction; genetic variants; maternal sensitivity; microRNA; polymorphism.