Do genes determine monogamy / polygamy?

This 2021 rodent study developed epigenetic clocks for deer mice:

“We have undertaken a genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation in Peromyscus, spanning different species, stocks, sexes, tissues, and age cohorts. We present CpGs and enriched pathways that relate to different conditions such as chronological age, high altitude, and monogamous behavior.

  • Analysis involved tails, whole brain, and liver samples that are not major target tissues for sex hormones. This implies that sex-specific patterns of methylation are inflicted early during development, and persist at adulthood.
  • Altitude-specific age-related changes are adjacent to genes that play a role in brain development, immune system functioning, and T-cell development.
  • Comparison of brain specimens between older P. leucopus and P. maniculatus indicated that in the latter, coordination of the unfolded protein response is compromised, and evidence of neurodegenerative pathology was obtained.
  • Our study involved three monogamous (P. californicus, P. polionotus, and P. eremicus) and two polygamous (P. maniculatus and P. leucopus) species. The most significant EWAS hits for monogamy included decreased methylation in Zeb2 intron, a key regulator of midbrain dopaminergic neuron development. These results derived from tail tissues, suggesting that inherent differences in bonding behavior instruct specific epigenetic changes in peripheral tissues that may be translated into distinct physiological outcomes. Whether this is due to differential regulation of specific neurohormonal circuits in response to hormones and neurotransmitters related to bonding, and what the exact physiological outputs are, remains to be determined.

Our study provided the first epigenetic clock for Peromyscus, and illustrated the hierarchical association between various biological variables in determining methylation profiles across different scales of biological organization.” “Methylation studies in Peromyscus: aging, altitude adaptation, and monogamy”


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