Anterior pituitary transcriptome suggests differences in ACTH release in tame and aggressive foxes

Jessica P. Hekman, Jennifer L. Johnson, Whitney Edwards, Anastasiya V. Vladimirova, Rimma G. Gulevich, Alexandra L. Ford, Anastasiya V. Kharlamova, Yury Herbeck, Gregory M. Acland, Lori T. Raetzman, Lyudmila N. Trut, Anna V. Kukekova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Domesticated species exhibit a suite of behavioral, endocrinological, and morphological changes referred to as "domestication syndrome." These changes may include a reduction in reactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and specifically reduced adrenocorticotropic hormone release from the anterior pituitary. To investigate the biological mechanisms targeted during domestication, we investigated gene expression in the pituitaries of experimentally domesticated foxes (Vulpes vulpes). RNA was sequenced from the anterior pituitary of six foxes selectively bred for tameness ("tame foxes") and six foxes selectively bred for aggression ("aggressive foxes"). Expression, splicing, and network differences identified between the two lines indicated the importance of genes related to regulation of exocytosis, specifically mediated by cAMP, organization of pseudopodia, and cell motility. These findings provide new insights into biological mechanisms that may have been targeted when these lines of foxes were selected for behavior and suggest new directions for research into HPA axis regulation and the biological underpinnings of domestication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-873
Number of pages15
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Domestication
  • Hypothalamicpituitaryadrenal axis
  • RNA-seq pituitary
  • Vulpes vulpes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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