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Distinct transcriptional and metabolic profiles associated with empathy in Buddhist priests: a pilot study

Overview of attention for article published in Human Genomics, September 2017
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Distinct transcriptional and metabolic profiles associated with empathy in Buddhist priests: a pilot study
Published in
Human Genomics, September 2017
DOI 10.1186/s40246-017-0117-3
Pubmed ID

Junji Ohnishi, Satoshi Ayuzawa, Seiji Nakamura, Shigeko Sakamoto, Miyo Hori, Tomoko Sasaoka, Eriko Takimoto-Ohnishi, Masakazu Tanatsugu, Kazuo Murakami


Growing evidence suggests that spiritual/religious involvement may have beneficial effects on both psychological and physical functions. However, the biological basis for this relationship remains unclear. This study explored the role of spiritual/religious involvement across a wide range of biological markers, including transcripts and metabolites, associated with the psychological aspects of empathy in Buddhist priests. Ten professional Buddhist priests and 10 age-matched non-priest controls were recruited. The participants provided peripheral blood samples for the analysis of gene expression and metabolic profiles. The participants also completed validated questionnaires measuring empathy, the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile-II (HPLP-II), and a brief-type self-administered diet history questionnaire (BDHQ). The microarray analyses revealed that the distinct transcripts in the Buddhist priests included up-regulated genes related to type I interferon (IFN) innate anti-viral responses (i.e., MX1, RSAD2, IFIT1, IFIT3, IFI27, IFI44L, and HERC5), and the genes C17orf97 (ligand of arginyltranseferase 1; ATE1), hemoglobin γA (HBG1), keratin-associated protein (KRTAP10-12), and sialic acid Ig-like lectin 14 (SIGLEC14) were down-regulated at baseline. The metabolomics analysis revealed that the metabolites, including 3-aminoisobutylic acid (BAIBA), choline, several essential amino acids (e.g., methionine, phenylalanine), and amino acid derivatives (e.g., 2-aminoadipic acid, asymmetric dimethyl-arginine (ADMA), symmetric dimethyl-arginine (SMDA)), were elevated in the Buddhist priests. By contrast, there was no significant difference of healthy lifestyle behaviors and daily nutrient intakes between the priests and the controls in this study. With regard to the psychological aspects, the Buddhist priests showed significantly higher empathy compared with the control. Spearman's rank correlation analysis showed that empathy aspects in the priests were significantly correlated with the certain transcripts and metabolites. We performed in vivo phenotyping using transcriptomics, metabolomics, and psychological analyses and found an association between empathy and the phenotype of Buddhist priests in this pilot study. The up-regulation of the anti-viral type I IFN responsive genes and distinct metabolites in the plasma may represent systemic biological adaptations with a unique signature underlying spiritual/religious practices for Buddhists.

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Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 54 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 54 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 10 19%
Student > Master 8 15%
Student > Postgraduate 5 9%
Student > Ph. D. Student 5 9%
Researcher 4 7%
Other 8 15%
Unknown 14 26%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Psychology 8 15%
Medicine and Dentistry 8 15%
Nursing and Health Professions 8 15%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 3 6%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 3 6%
Other 6 11%
Unknown 18 33%

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This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 1. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 21 September 2017.
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