First transgenic prairie voles created to unravel genetic secrets of pairing

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Washington, Dec 2 (ANI): By successfully generating the first transgenic prairie voles, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have taken an important step towards unlocking the genetic secrets of pair bonding.

With more innovations in future, this technology will enable scientists to perform a host of genetic manipulations that will help identify the brain mechanisms of social bonding and other complex social behaviours.

The advancement may also have important implications for understanding and treating psychiatric disorders associated with impairments in social behaviour.

Lead researcher Dr. Zoe Donaldson and her colleagues adapted transgenic technology to the prairie vole, a naturally occurring monogamous rodent that is being used to discover the brain mechanisms underlying monogamous pair bonds.

"Domesticated lab rats and mice dominate biomedical research, but wild rodent species with more complex social behaviours are better suited for investigating the biology of the social brain. Until now, genetic engineering among rodents has been limited to lab mice and rats," said Donaldson.

For the study, the researchers injected single-cell prairie vole embryos with a lentivirus containing a gene found in glowing jellyfish.

The gene encodes a green fluorescent protein, which glows under the appropriate conditions.

The prairie vole that developed from this embryo expressed the green fluorescent protein throughout its body, and the foreign gene was passed on to the offspring for multiple generations.

Dr. Larry Young will next use this technology to determine whether monogamy and its associated social behaviours can be affected by manipulating a single gene.

Researchers are also investigating ways to refine this technology in order to alter gene expression in certain brain regions as well as at certain developmental milestones.

The study will be published in the latest issue of Biology of Reproduction. (ANI)

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