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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Why are some able to deal with horror and tragedy better than others? An article, soon to be published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, sheds some light on a genetic role in the psychosocial outcomes of women who experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Researchers at the NIH, University of Pisa and the Center for the Prevention and Resolution of Violence in Tucson, Arizona have found that women who suffered CSA and who posses a variant of a polymorphic regulatory region for the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) are more likely to become alcoholic and exhibit antisocial personality disorder than women who suffered CSA and who posses other variants of this regulatory region.

MAOA is a gene that encodes a protein that breaks down neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are over expressed in response to stress. Knockout studies of MAOA in mice have shown increased neurotransmitter levels and increased violent behavior.

The regulatory region termed, MAOA linked polymorphic region (MAOA-lpr), has variants that signal either low expression of MAOA or high expression of MAOA. Previous human studies have shown that men who suffered CSA and had the low expressing genotype MAOA-lpr were more likely to have psychosocial difficulties in adulthood than their male counterparts with the high expressing genotype MAOA-lpr. The current study aimed to examine the differential psychosocial effects due to genotype in women.

A friend and I have a decade long dialogue going whether life imitates art or art imitates life. This article highlights another, somewhat related, dialogue. Here it is not a question of nature vs. nurture, but more aptly, how do nature and nurture work together?


Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication 26 June 2007

Interaction between a functional MAOA locus and childhood sexual abuse predicts alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder in adult women

F Ducci, M-A Enoch, C Hodgkinson, K Xu, M Catena, R W Robin and D Goldman

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