ATLANTA, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've generated the first transgenic prairie vole by injecting a single-cell vole embryo with a gene from a jellyfish.
Yerkes National Primate Researcher Center scientists at Emory University, led by Zoe Donaldson, said they chose the prairie vole, a monogamous rodent, so they could later identify brain mechanisms underlying monogamous pair bonds.
"Domesticated lab rats and mice dominate biomedical research, but wild rodent species with more complex social behaviors are better suited for investigating the biology of the social brain," said Donaldson.
The researchers said they injected a virus containing a jellyfish gene that directs the production of a green fluorescent protein into single-cell prairie vole embryos. The prairie vole that grew from the embryo had the green fluorescent protein throughout its body, and the jellyfish gene was subsequently passed on to multiple generations of vole offspring.
The Yerkes researchers say gaining competence in such genetic manipulation will help identify brain mechanisms for social bonding and other complex behaviors. Ultimately, they say their work might help scientists development treatments for psychiatric disorders characterized by impairments in social behavior.
The research appears in the journal Biology of Reproduction.