Coping behaviors linked to female chromosome

November 07, 2003

Coping behaviors appear to be linked to at least three genes on the X, or female, chromosome, Northwestern University researchers report. Therefore, males, who are XY, inherit coping behaviors from their mothers, while females, who are XX, can inherit coping behaviors from each of their parents. The study is the cover article in the November issue of Mammalian Genetics.

Nasim Ahmadiyeh, a graduate student in the lab of Eva Redei at Northwestern University found both behavioral and genetic evidence for X-linkage in offspring of two strains of rats that exhibited differing coping behaviors. First-generation males but not females showed maternally derived coping styles, while second-generation females -- but not males -- showed significant differences in coping styles determined by their grandmothers.

Redei is David Lawrence Stein Professor of Psychiatric Diseases Affecting Children and Adolescents and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Joseph Takahashi, professor of neurobiology and physiology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, collaborated on the study.

Coping strategies are cognitive, behavioral or physiological processes aimed at diminishing or terminating stress. These traits have genetic, environmental and learned components; but molecular genetic studies hold particular promise for understanding transmission of coping behaviors "Different coping strategies elicit simultaneous changes physiologically. While adaptive coping can ameliorate the consequences of stress, maladaptive coping strategies can lead to an increased risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, extremes in coping styles can influence susceptibility to psychiatric disorders, particularly depression and certain anxiety disorders," Redei said.
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(Source contact: Eva Redei at 312-908-1791 or e-redei@northwestern.edu)

Northwestern University

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