Intronic Tandem Repeat in the Serotonin Transporter Gene in Old World Monkeys: a New Transcriptional Regulator?
The serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) is heavily involved in the regulation of social behaviour of primates. Old World monkeys (e.g. macaques, baboons) have been used to study interactions between variation in the SLC6A4 gene and behaviour. Correlations of variation at one polymorphism located in the promoter region (known as 5HTTLPR) and variation at SLC6A4 expression levels, serotonin turnover and behaviour has been widely studied. In Old World monkeys, the third intron of the SLC6A4 gene also presents a tandem repeat, which sequence varies across species by a few point substitutions. We predict that in these species, this repeated region also acts as transcriptional regulatory domain and that sequence variation at this polymorphic locus might result in differential levels of expression in gene–environment interactions. For testing these hypotheses, the tandem repeat of Mandrillus sphinx and Cercopithecus aethiops from the third intron were cloned into a reporter gene vector and delivered to either primary cultures of rat neonate frontal cortex or the human cell line (JAr) to analyse their transcriptional activities. These repeated sequences supported significantly different levels of gene expression only when delivered into frontal cortex cultures. Furthermore, we tested in silico if such substitutions could have an effect on their binding profile to RNA- and DNA-binding proteins and on splicing. Taken together our results suggest that the tandem repeat in the third intron of the SLC6A4 gene of Old World monkeys could constitute a second transcriptional regulator as suggested for the 5HTTLPR and therefore contribute to diversification of serotonin-related behaviour in these primates.
KeywordsSerotonin transporter Old World monkeys Tandem repeat Gene expression Behaviour
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