Neurogenomic insights into paternal care and its relation to territorial aggression

Syed Abbas Bukhari, Michael C. Saul, Noelle James, Miles K. Bensky, Laura R. Stein, Rebecca Trapp, Alison M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motherhood is characterized by dramatic changes in brain and behavior, but less is known about fatherhood. Here we report that male sticklebacks—a small fish in which fathers provide care—experience dramatic changes in neurogenomic state as they become fathers. Some genes are unique to different stages of paternal care, some genes are shared across stages, and some genes are added to the previously acquired neurogenomic state. Comparative genomic analysis suggests that some of these neurogenomic dynamics resemble changes associated with pregnancy and reproduction in mammalian mothers. Moreover, gene regulatory analysis identifies transcription factors that are regulated in opposite directions in response to a territorial challenge versus during paternal care. Altogether these results show that some of the molecular mechanisms of parental care might be deeply conserved and might not be sex-specific, and suggest that tradeoffs between opposing social behaviors are managed at the gene regulatory level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4437
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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