Early social rearing, the V1A arginine vasopressin receptor genotype, and autistic traits in chimpanzees

ALEXANDER Weiss, Vanessa A D Wilson, William Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies found associations between autism-related phenotypes and both rearing and V1A arginine vasopressin receptor (AVPR1A) genotypes. We tested whether these exposures and their interaction were associated with autism-related phenotypes in 121 laboratory-housed chimpanzees. We used expert-derived weights to obtain autism scores from ratings on the 43-item Chimpanzee Personality Questionnaire; higher scores indicated more autistic-like traits. The first model included fixed effects for sex, age, and rearing, and a random effect that addressed the relatedness of subjects. The second model was the same except that it also included the rearing × AVPR1A genotype interaction as a fixed effect. Both models indicated that the phenotype was moderately heritable and that chimpanzees reared by their mothers had lower scores on the scale. The effect of genotype in both models indicated that chimpanzees with an indel deletion had higher scores on the scale, although the credible interval included zero. Moreover, the rearing × genotype interaction in the second model indicated chimpanzees who possessed the non-deletion genotype and who were reared by their mother were at even greater risk. This credible interval for this effect did not include zero, but fit statistics indicated that the model without the interaction was marginally better, and the interaction was in the opposite direction than we expected based on previous work. These findings highlight the importance of rearing effects in typical social development of our closet-living nonhuman relative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1843-1853
JournalAutism Research
Issue number9
Early online date5 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2021


  • autism
  • AVPR1A
  • development
  • mother
  • primate
  • vasopressin


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