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  • Selection for tameness, a key behavioral trait of domestication, increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in foxes.

Selection for tameness, a key behavioral trait of domestication, increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in foxes.

Hippocampus (2015-01-24)
Shihhui Huang, Lutz Slomianka, Andrew J Farmer, Anastasiya V Kharlamova, Rimma G Gulevich, Yury E Herbeck, Lyudmila N Trut, David P Wolfer, Irmgard Amrein
ABSTRACT

Work on laboratory and wild rodents suggests that domestication may impact on the extent of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and its responsiveness to regulatory factors. There is, however, no model of laboratory rodents and their nondomesticated conspecifics that would allow a controlled comparison of the effect of domestication. Here, we present a controlled within-species comparison of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in farm-bred foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that differ in their genetically determined degree of tameness. Quantitative comparisons of cell proliferation (Ki67) and differentiating cells of neuronal lineage (doublecortin, DCX) in the hippocampus of foxes were performed as a proxy for neurogenesis. Higher neurogenesis was observed in tameness-selected foxes, notably in an extended subgranular zone of the middle and temporal compartments of the hippocampus. Increased neurogenesis is negatively associated with aggressive behavior. Across all animals, strong septotemporal gradients were found, with higher numbers of proliferating cells and young neurons relative to resident granule cells in the temporal than in the septal hippocampus. The opposite gradient was found for the ratio of DCX/Ki67- positive cells. When tameness-selected and unselected foxes are compared with rodents and primates, proliferation is similar, while the number of young neurons is higher. The difference may be mediated by an extended period of differentiation or higher rate of survival. On the background of this species-specific neurogenic pattern, selection of foxes for a single behavioral trait key to domestication, i.e., genetic tameness, is accompanied by global and region-specific increases in neurogenesis.

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