Oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism (rs53576) and digit ratio associates with aggression: Comparison in seven ethnic groups
Background: The specific role of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene polymorphisms in emotional support seeking, related to social norms and culturally normative behavior, has been discussed in several studies. Evidence on the association between aggression and OXTR polymorphisms has also been reported. The goal of the current study was to analyze the effect of the OXTR rs53576 polymorphism, prenatal testosterone effect (second-to-fourth digit ratio, or 2D:4D), and culture on aggression assessed with the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ).
Methods: The data were collected in Russia and Tanzania and included seven ethnic groups of European, Asian, and African origin. The total sample included 1705 adults (837 males, 868 females). All the subjects were evaluated with the BPAQ. As a measure of prenatal androgenization, the second and fourth digits were measured directly from hand, and the digit ratios were calculated. All the participants provided buccal samples, from which genomic DNA was extracted, and the OXTR gene rs53576 polymorphism was genotyped. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 23.0; the alpha level for all analyses was set at 0.05.
Results: The ethnic group factor was the most significant predictor of ratings on BPAQ (medium effect size for physical aggression, anger and hostility scales, and low for verbal aggression). To study the effect of sex, the OXTR polymorphism, and prenatal androgenization, we conducted the z-score transformation for BPAQ scales and 2D:4D for each ethnic group and pooled these data into new z-score variables. According to the GLM analysis after leveling the effects of culture (z-transformation), all four scales of BPAQ demonstrated association with sex (main effects), with men scoring higher on physical and verbal aggression and women scoring higher on anger and hostility. Anger and hostility scales were also associated with OXTR polymorphism and 2D:4D of the right hand. The lowest levels of anger and hostility were observed in individuals with the AA genotype, especially in men.