The Kukekova Lab is interested in identifying novel biological mechanisms and gaining a better understanding of well-known mechanisms through which genetic and environmental factors may regulate inter-individual differences in social behavior. In particular, our research is focused on aggression, anxiety, and affiliation, the behavioral systems consistently found to be associated with neurological disorders. To identify molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of these behaviors, we are studying strains of tame and aggressive red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) developed at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We are using a combination of approaches including genetics, genomics, and transcriptomics to understand dramatic differences in the behavior of these foxes and to pinpoint the mechanisms which may be disturbed in human behavioral disorders.
Our Principal Investigator is Anna Kukekova.
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The silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) is taxonomically close to the dog (Wayne, 2001) but although reared in captivity, they had not been domesticated previously. Under standard farm conditions, foxes normally exhibit distinct patterns of aggressive and fear-aggressive behavior to humans. Dmitriy Belyaev and colleagues hypothesized that a selection of farm foxes for less-fearful and less-aggressive behavior would yield a strain of domesticated fox (Belyaev 1969, 1979; Trut, 1999).