Emilie F. Rissman


  • BA, University of California, Berkeley
  • PhD, Cornell University
  • Postdoc, University of Texas, Austin

Primary Appointment

  • Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics


Research Interest(s)

Steroid Receptor and Epigenetic Interactions Affecting Behavior

Research Description

Mammalian social behavior is complex, yet a systematic genetic approach can reveal the major genes that regulate behavior. Many social behaviors, particularly in asocial animals, are engaged in only when gonadal steroid hormones are present coincident with mating. The genes for steroid hormone receptors and their downstream targets are currently under study in our laboratory. In addition our work shows that some social behaviors are sexually dimorphic, in part, because of differences in sex chromosome genes. One of our long term goals is to better elucidate the relationship between hormones and sex chromosome genes. In addition we are also interested in the roles that experience plays in behavior and how epigenetic mechanisms regulate these changes. One "experience" we have been manipulating is exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds during the prenatal period. We have found that exposure to the common plasticizer, bisphenol A, changes social behavior patterns in mice. Moreover some of these changes are present in offspring that are three or four generations removed from the original and only exposure. Thus bisphenol A causes transgenerationally inherited behavior changes that are likely produced by epigenetic mechanisms. The exact mechanisms involved are under investigation in the laboratory now. Our mouse work is relevant to several sexually dimorphic neurobehavioral diseases that involve modifications in normal social behaviors one example is autism spectrum disorder.

Selected Publications

  • Bonthuis P, Rissman E. Neural growth hormone implicated in body weight sex differences. Endocrinology. 2013. PMID: 23861378 | PMCID: PMC3776866
  • Addison M, Rissman E. Sexual dimorphism of growth hormone in the hypothalamus: regulation by estradiol. Endocrinology. 2012;153(4): 1898-907. PMID: 22315455 | PMCID: PMC3320260
  • Bonthuis P, Cox K, Rissman E. X-chromosome dosage affects male sexual behavior. Hormones and behavior. 2012;61(4): 565-72. PMID: 22349083 | PMCID: PMC3319230
  • Stolzenberg D, Stevens J, Rissman E. Experience-facilitated improvements in pup retrieval; evidence for an epigenetic effect. Hormones and behavior. 2012;62(2): 128-35. PMID: 22687346 | PMCID: PMC3474355
  • Tejada L, Rissman E. Sex differences in social investigation: effects of androgen receptors, hormones and test partner. Journal of neuroendocrinology. 2012;24(8): 1144-53. PMID: 22487205 | PMCID: PMC3615635
  • Wolstenholme J, Edwards M, Shetty S, Gatewood J, Taylor J, Rissman E, Connelly J. Gestational exposure to bisphenol a produces transgenerational changes in behaviors and gene expression. Endocrinology. 2012;153(8): 3828-38. PMID: 22707478 | PMCID: PMC3404345
  • Wolstenholme J, Rissman E, Bekiranov S. Sexual differentiation in the developing mouse brain: contributions of sex chromosome genes. Genes, brain, and behavior. 2012;12(2): 166-80. PMID: 23210685 | PMCID: PMC3581734
  • Abel J, Rissman E. Location, location, location: genetic regulation of neural sex differences. Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders. 2011;13(3): 151-61. PMID: 21607612 | PMCID: PMC3622700
  • Abel J, Witt D, Rissman E. Sex differences in the cerebellum and frontal cortex: roles of estrogen receptor alpha and sex chromosome genes. Neuroendocrinology. 2011;93(4): 230-40. PMID: 21325792 | PMCID: PMC3128132
  • Bonthuis P, Patteson J, Rissman E. Acquisition of sexual receptivity: roles of chromatin acetylation, estrogen receptor-alpha, and ovarian hormones. Endocrinology. 2011;152(8): 3172-81. PMID: 21652725 | PMCID: PMC3138229
  • Cox K, Rissman E. Sex differences in juvenile mouse social behavior are influenced by sex chromosomes and social context. Genes, brain, and behavior. 2011;10(4): 465-72. PMID: 21414140 | PMCID: PMC3107935
  • Stolzenberg D, Rissman E. Oestrogen-independent, experience-induced maternal behaviour in female mice. Journal of neuroendocrinology. 2011;23(4): 345-54. PMID: 21276101 | PMCID: PMC3064747
  • Wolstenholme J, Taylor J, Shetty S, Edwards M, Connelly J, Rissman E. Gestational exposure to low dose bisphenol A alters social behavior in juvenile mice. PloS one. 2011;6(9): e25448. PMID: 21980460 | PMCID: PMC3182223
  • Cox K, Gatewood J, Howeth C, Rissman E. Gestational exposure to bisphenol A and cross-fostering affect behaviors in juvenile mice. Hormones and behavior. 2010;58(5): 754-61. PMID: 20691692 | PMCID: PMC2982867
  • Park J, Bonthius P, Tsai H, Bekiranov S, Rissman E. Amyloid beta precursor protein regulates male sexual behavior. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2010;30(30): 9967-72. PMID: 20668181 | PMCID: PMC3040978
  • Wolstenholme J, Rissman E, Connelly J. The role of Bisphenol A in shaping the brain, epigenome and behavior. Hormones and behavior. 2010;59(3): 296-305. PMID: 21029734 | PMCID: PMC3725332
  • Kudwa A, Harada N, Honda S, Rissman E. Regulation of progestin receptors in medial amygdala: estradiol, phytoestrogens and sex. Physiology & behavior. 2009;97(2): 146-50. PMID: 19258019 | PMCID: PMC2670950
  • Roles of oestrogen receptors alpha and beta in behavioural neuroendocrinology: beyond Yin/Yang. Journal of neuroendocrinology. 2008;20(6): 873-9. PMID: 18601711 | PMCID: PMC2667101
  • Bodo C, Rissman E. The androgen receptor is selectively involved in organization of sexually dimorphic social behaviors in mice. Endocrinology. 2008;149(8): 4142-50. PMID: 18467440 | PMCID: PMC2488208
  • McPhie-Lalmansingh A, Tejada L, Weaver J, Rissman E. Sex chromosome complement affects social interactions in mice. Hormones and behavior. 2008;54(4): 565-70. PMID: 18590732 | PMCID: PMC2561329
  • Tsai H, Grant P, Rissman E. Sex differences in histone modifications in the neonatal mouse brain. Epigenetics : official journal of the DNA Methylation Society. 2008;4(1): 47-53. PMID: 19029819 | PMCID: PMC2667098
  • Kauffman A, Park J, McPhie-Lalmansingh A, Gottsch M, Bodo C, Hohmann J, Pavlova M, Rohde A, Clifton D, Steiner R, Rissman E. The kisspeptin receptor GPR54 is required for sexual differentiation of the brain and behavior. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2007;27(33): 8826-35. PMID: 17699664
  • Gatewood J, Wills A, Shetty S, Xu J, Arnold A, Burgoyne P, Rissman E. Sex chromosome complement and gonadal sex influence aggressive and parental behaviors in mice. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2006;26(8): 2335-42. PMID: 16495461