An integrated analysis of genes and functional pathways for aggression in human and rodent models

Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;24(11):1655-1667. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0068-7. Epub 2018 Jun 1.


Human genome-wide association studies (GWAS), transcriptome analyses of animal models, and candidate gene studies have advanced our understanding of the genetic architecture of aggressive behaviors. However, each of these methods presents unique limitations. To generate a more confident and comprehensive view of the complex genetics underlying aggression, we undertook an integrated, cross-species approach. We focused on human and rodent models to derive eight gene lists from three main categories of genetic evidence: two sets of genes identified in GWAS studies, four sets implicated by transcriptome-wide studies of rodent models, and two sets of genes with causal evidence from online Mendelian inheritance in man (OMIM) and knockout (KO) mice reports. These gene sets were evaluated for overlap and pathway enrichment to extract their similarities and differences. We identified enriched common pathways such as the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling pathway, axon guidance, reelin signaling in neurons, and ERK/MAPK signaling. Also, individual genes were ranked based on their cumulative weights to quantify their importance as risk factors for aggressive behavior, which resulted in 40 top-ranked and highly interconnected genes. The results of our cross-species and integrated approach provide insights into the genetic etiology of aggression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics*
  • Transcriptome / genetics