Rissman, Emilie F.

Emilie Rissman

Emilie F. Rissman

Primary Appointment

Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics


  • BA, Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
  • PhD, Biology and Psychology, Cornell University
  • Postdoc, Zoology, University of Texas, Austin

Contact Information

PO Box 800733
Telephone: 434-982-5611
Email: efr2f@virginia.edu
Website: http://nsfepigenetic.com/scientists/emilie-f-rissman-phd

Research Interests

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