Androgen Receptor Gene and Aggression in the Japanese Akita Inu

October 14, 2013 – 01:41 pm

These individual differences are of the highest importance for us, for they are often inherited, as must be familiar to every one; and they thus afford materials for natural selection to act on and accumulate, in the same manner as man accumulates in any given direction individual differences in his domesticated productions. — Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

One of the regular readers/posters has mentioned her Akita a few times so I decided to learn a little more about the breed. My preference has always leaned towards the Pastoral and Gundog groups (Herding & Sporting), so I was only familiar with the basics of the Akita. For example, I was unaware of the American/Japanese split among the breed fanciers.


In my exploration of the breed I came across as study on the behavioural genetics of the Akita. But before I get to the study, a quick blurb about genes and animal behaviour seems appropriate.

Some Background

Even before the advent of modern molecular methods, there was strong indication that certain personality traits were inherited; today the short list includes DRD4, 5-HTT, MAO, SLC6A4, DAT1, BDNF, COMT, vasopressin, TH, cortisol and the subject of this study, the androgen receptor gene. All these genes have been linked to various personality traits in human or non-human animals. Many of the ones mentioned above and many more not mentioned influence the same or related traits, so these genes are not only interacting with the environment but also with each other.

As I mentioned in Nature vs Nurture, genes don’t act in a vacuum. They don’t create personality, they are part of complex and dynamic set of interacting variables that play a role in the development of personality and behavior. Genes do not create behavior. No gene CAUSES aggression or novelty seeking or herding or social bonding or anxiety or any other trait. There is no ball gene, dominance gene or pee-in-the-house gene; rather they set the stage for environment to act; they tilt the odds (usually only slightly) towards one option over others.


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