Influence of prenatal iron deficiency and MAOA genotype on response to social challenge in rhesus monkey infants


M. S. Golub, CNPRC, BMB, University of California, Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail:


Social and emotional behaviors are known to be sensitive to both developmental iron deficiency (ID) and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene polymorphisms. In this study, male rhesus monkey infants deprived of dietary iron in utero were compared with iron sufficient (IS) controls (n = 10/group). Half of each group had low MAOA activity genotypes and half had high MAOA activity genotypes. A series of social response tests were conducted at 3–14 months of age. MAOA genotype influenced attention to a video of aggressive behavior, emotional expression (fear, grimace and sniff) in the social intruder test, social actions (displacement, grooming) in the social dyad test, and aggressive responses to a threatening picture. Interactions between MAOA and prenatal ID were seen in response to the aggressive video, in temperament ratings, in affiliative behavior in the social dyad test, in cortisol response in the social buffering test and in response to a social intruder and to pictures with social and nonsocial themes. In general, the effects of ID were dependent on MAOA genotype in terms of both direction and size of the effect. Nutrition/genotype interactions may shed new light on behavioral consequences of nutritional deprivation during brain development.