Original Article

Molecular Psychiatry (2006) 11, 782–786. doi:10.1038/sj.mp.4001832; published online 18 April 2006

Polymorphisms in the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) contribute to individual differences in human sexual behavior: desire, arousal and sexual function

I Z Ben Zion1, R Tessler2, L Cohen3, E Lerer4, Y Raz5, R Bachner-Melman2, I Gritsenko6, L Nemanov6, A H Zohar7, R H Belmaker1, J Benjamin1 and R P Ebstein2,6

  1. 1Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
  2. 2Department of Psychology, Mount Scopus, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
  3. 3Department of Education, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
  4. 4Neurobiology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
  5. 5Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
  6. 6S. Herzog Memorial Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel
  7. 7Department of Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, Ruppin Academic Center, Emek Hefer, Israel

Correspondence: Professor RP Ebstein, Scheinfeld Center for Genetic Studies in the Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905 (and S. Herzog Memorial Hospital), Israel. E-mail: ebstein@mscc.huji.ac.il

Received 12 December 2005; Revised 6 February 2006; Accepted 3 March 2006; Published online 18 April 2006.

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Abstract

Although there is some evidence from twin studies that individual differences in sexual behavior are heritable, little is known about the specific molecular genetic design of human sexuality. Recently, a specific dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) agonist was shown in rats to induce penile erection through a central mechanism. These findings prompted us to examine possible association between the well-characterized DRD4 gene and core phenotypes of human sexual behavior that included desire, arousal and function in a group of 148 nonclinical university students. We observed association between the exon 3 repeat region, and the C-521T and C-616G promoter region SNPs, with scores on scales that measure human sexual behavior. The single most common DRD4 5-locus haplotype (19%) was significantly associated with Desire, Function and Arousal scores. The current results are consistent with animal studies that show a role for dopamine and specifically the DRD4 receptor in sexual behavior and suggest that one pathway by which individual variation in human desire, arousal and function are mediated is based on allelic variants coding for differences in DRD4 receptor gene expression and protein concentrations in key brain areas.

Keywords:

sexual behavior, dopamine D4 receptor gene, DRD4, polymorphism, haplotype, family study