Personal Genomes

What’s the Distribution of Oxytocin Alleles in the General Population?

In my previous post I commented on my family’s alleles for the rs53576 SNP of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene. A GG allele seems to be associated to a more pro-social character. A follow up question would be “what would its distribution be for the general population”. Luckily, a few colleagues of mine and myself have compiled a database of n=52 23andMe genotypes from the public domain. While the number of individuals contained in the database is small and of predominantly European ethnic background, I still can get an approximate view of what the frequency would be for these alleles. I found the following distribution:

  • AA: 6 (11.5%)
  • AG or GA: 18 (34.6%)
  • GG: 28 (53.8%)

If I was to speculate from this finding and assuming that the GG allele association is true, it would seem that being pro-social is quite dominant among Europeans. In fact when I look at the distribution of rs53576 alleles per populations in the 1000 genomes project, the above distribution looks quite similar to the proportions shown for the European (CEU) pie chart:

Frequencies of rs53576 in the 1000 genomes project. CEU: European; CHB+JPT: Han Chinese and Japanese; YRI: Yoruban (from Nigeria). More yellow apparently means more social.

Obviously the samples quite are small to make a final conclusion but I let readers judge by themselves what these results might mean.

I would like to thank Karyn Megy as she gave me the idea of querying the public domain 23andMe database.

One comment

  1. I am anything but social and was astounded to discover that I had this allele, inheriting the g version from both my parents.

    I also carry rs-4680, a SNP on the COMT gene, also two copies. This SNP is associated with a very strong startle response, NON-social nature.

    Could these two genes be canceling each other out? But in fact I DO startle easily and am uncomfortable around people.

    Although I do think genetics is sound science, my opinion is that when it comes to personality traits, we are still in the early stages of our knowledge: Does a given SNP make you an OCD patient or a ‘good planner’?

    In the case of the OXTR allele, it ‘predicts’ that I would be good with children.

    I have never had children because they drive me crazy!

    A younger person who reacts to kids the way I do, but has the rs53576 allele might decide to have kids anyway, hoping his genes will make him a ‘good dad’ anyway. That might be disastrous for all converned!

    We’ve got a lot to learn yet, before we start planning our lives around these SNPs.


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