AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: vasopressin

Gene-Edited Hamsters Shed Light on Social Behavior

Scientists at Georgia State University have engineered genetically modified hamsters using advanced gene-editing techniques to delve into the complexities of social neuroscience Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), challenge previous assumptions about the biological mechanisms underlying social behavior.

Led by Professors H. Elliott Albers and Kim Huhman, the research team utilized CRISPR-Cas9 technology to deactivate a crucial neurochemical signaling pathway, involving vasopressin and its receptor Avpr1a, known for regulating various social behaviors in mammals. Contrary to expectations, disabling the Avpr1a receptor in hamsters led to unexpected changes in social behavior.

The study observed that hamsters lacking the Avpr1a receptor exhibited heightened levels of social communication, contrary to the anticipated decrease in both aggression and social interaction. Moreover, the typical gender disparities in aggression disappeared, with both male and female hamsters displaying elevated levels of aggression towards same-sex individuals.

These surprising results highlight the complexity of the vasopressin system and suggest a need to reassess our understanding of how these receptors function across entire brain circuits, rather than focusing solely on specific regions.

In AP Bio, we learned about cell signaling and the interactions between various receptors and enzymes; the vasopressin receptor Avpr1a is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that is widely distributed in the brain, particularly in regions associated with social behavior such as the amygdala and hippocampus. When vasopressin binds to Avpr1a, it triggers intracellular signaling pathways that can lead to changes in neuronal activity and neurotransmitter release.

The Syrian hamsters used in the study are particularly valuable for researching social behavior due to their similarity to humans in social organization and stress response. Additionally, their susceptibility to diseases such as COVID-19 makes them a relevant model for studying human health.

Despite the challenges in developing genetically modified hamsters, the researchers emphasize the importance of understanding the neurocircuitry involved in human social behavior. Their work holds promise for identifying novel treatment approaches for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders, from autism to depression.

I find this article fascinating because of my love for hamsters and the innovative approach taken to uncover these insights. So, what do you think about these new discoveries? Be sure to leave a comment!Syrian Hamster Mid-grooming

Can We Alter Mammals Social Behavior Using CRISPR Gene Editing Mechanisms?

At Georgia State University a team of researchers led by professor H. Elliott Albers and Professor Kim Huhman put gene editing mechanisms to the test to determine if it was possible to alter hamsters behaviors. The hamsters that were utilized in this experiment were Syrian hamsters. These hamsters have been extremelGolden hamster front 1y important in many scientific experiments that look into social behaviors, aggression and communication. Furthermore, hamsters are widely used in scientific research due to the fact that their social skills resemble most similarly to humans.


In this experiment, professor H. Elliott Albers and Professor Kim Huhman utilized CRISPR-Cas9 technology to deactivate neurochemical signaling pathways that play a major part in controlling mammalian social behaviors. The regulators of the social phenomena that controls pair bonding, cooperation, social communication, dominance and aggression are the hormone vasopressin and the receptor it acts on, Avpr1a. VasopressinSek

After the gene editing and the observation of the hamsters were complete, the researchers were shocked by their unexpected results. As stated by Professor H. Elliott Albers,  he “anticipated that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication. But the opposite happened.”

Instead of reducing the hamsters’ aggression and social communication, the absence of the receptor that activates the vasopressin led the hamsters to demonstrate increased levels of social communication behaviors than when observed prior to the gene editing. Furthermore, it was observed that the differences in opposite sex aggression were removed. Both the male and female hamsters showed aggression towards other same-sex hamsters.  

This shocking finding led the researchers to a different conclusion than foreseen. Because it is known that vasopressin correlates with the increase of social behaviors, it can be concluded that the Avpr1a receptor is inhibitory

Moreover, confirming this study done at Georgia State University, another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that that eliminating the Avpr1a receptor in hamsters windes up deactivating the vasopressin’s action on the receptor, therefore changing the social behavior of the hamsters drastically in ways one would not expect.

Overall, Professor H. Elliott Albers contends that this study is of extreme value as it helps researchers understand the“neurocircuitry involved in human social behavior and our model has translational relevance for human health. Understanding the role of vasopressin in behavior is necessary to help identify potential new and more effective treatment strategies for a diverse group of neuropsychiatric disorders ranging from autism to depression.”

Connection to AP Biology 😀

This study is connected to our AP biology class as we have learned about regulation of gene expression. Without the presence of the Avpr1a receptor, the vasopressin has no way to be mediated, thus enhancing its social behavioral effects. And with the presence of the Avpr1a receptor, the vasopressin is still active, however, muted. 

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