Disclaimer: Presence of the trait or SNP in your report depends upon the marker being present in your DNA raw data.
MAO-A gene: An introduction
The MAO-A gene, popularly nicknamed as the “warrior gene” is responsible for the production monoamine oxidase A enzymes.
These enzymes are part of a larger family of enzymes that break down monoamine molecules through oxidation.
They are also majorly involved in the breakdown of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Thus, mutations in the MAO-A gene can directly affect the levels of these neurotransmitters, which can potentially lead to various behavior-associated disorders.
Monoamine oxidase deficiency
MAOA-L is the low activity form of the MAO-A gene that results in lower levels of monoamine oxidase A enzyme.
This results in monoamine oxidase A deficiency, which reportedly follows an X-Linked inheritance pattern.
Thus, this disorder is majorly seen affecting males.
Lower levels of this enzyme typically result in the build-up of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Various studies have linked this build-up with unusual behavioral patterns involving aggressive outbursts and abnormal sexual behavior.
The deficiency of this enzyme has also been associated with abnormal development of the brain which can directly lead to intellectual disabilities.
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Genetic variants of MAO-A
There are many variants of the MAO-A gene that directly results in lower or higher levels of the enzyme in our body.
Higher levels of the enzyme result in lower levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
Thus, such genetic variants have primarily been associated with major depressive disorder.
Lower levels of the enzymes lead to the build-up of neurotransmitters which results in a higher risk of aggressive and impulsive behavior.
|rsid||risk allele||Enzyme levels||implications|
|rs1137070||T||Higher enzyme levels||Increased risk for depressive and bipolar disorders|
|rs3027407||A||Lower enzyme levels||Increased risk for ADHD and schizophrenia|
|rs909525||C||Lower enzyme levels||Increased risk for aggressive behavior|
|rs2064070||A||Lower enzyme levels||Increased expression of anger|
|rs6323||G||Higher enzyme levels||Increased risk for major depressive disorder|
|rs2072743||C||Higher enzyme levels||Increased risk for major depressive disorders and migraines|
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Is aggression genetic?
Several studies have established a strong connection between lower enzymatic activity and aggressive behavior.
Thus, if you possess the genetic variant that results in lower levels of the enzyme, there is a higher tendency for you to develop aggression.
However, it is important to note that the influence this gene has on aggression is also moderated by environmental factors.
A study reported that in high-stress or violent environments, people carrying the lower expression variant of the gene displayed predictable aggressive reactions, but in calmer settings, they were in control of their impulses.
Ultimately, when it comes to behavioral traits, both genetics and the environment have an equal say.
Is there a “Psycho” gene?
This delves into the topic of behavioral genetics, which is a controversial topic in and of itself.
The idea criminal-like behavior may be explained by certain genes is vastly debated in the scientific community, with most experts attributing environmental causes (poverty, education, etc.) as possible explanations.
However, some studies show that the MAOA-L gene, a mutation of MAO-A, could make people more violent.
The build-up of neurotransmitters has been linked to impulsive behavior, sleep disorders, mood swings, and violent tendencies.
As much as these traits sit well in a “psychopathic behavior”, the possession of this genetic variant alone, is not enough to brand a person as a psychopath.
A multitude of factors including the environment and ethnicity play a vital role in moderating how this gene influences a person’s behavior.
Hence, it is important to keep in mind that despite possessing the MAO-L variant, it is entirely possible to display normal behavioral characteristics.
Can women have the warrior gene?
The warrior gene, a variant of the MAO-A gene, results in lower enzymatic levels.
This, as discussed before, has been linked to aggressive behavior in men.
Interestingly enough, this gene appears to have a different effect on women.
According to one study, women with even a single copy of the low-expression form of the gene can experience pleasure and happiness more frequently, compared to women with no copy at all.
What can be attributed to this difference?
One hypothesis, which is still relatively unexplored, is that the difference in the testosterone levels can influence how this gene functions in men and women