Human iris color is a quantitative, multifactorial phenotype that exhibits quasi-Mendelian inheritance. Recent studies have shown that OCA2 polymorphism underlies most of the natural variability in human iris pigmentation but to date, only a few associated polymorphisms in this gene have been described. Herein, we describe an iris color score (C) for quantifying iris melanin content in-silico and undertake a more detailed survey of the OCA2 locus (n = 271 SNPs). In 1,317 subjects, we confirmed six previously described associations and identified another 27 strongly associated with C that were not explained by continental population stratification (OR 1.5-17.9, P = 0.03 to <0.001). Haplotype analysis with respect to these 33 SNPs revealed six haplotype blocks and 11 hap-tags within these blocks. To identify genetic features for best-predicting iris color, we selected sets of SNPs by parsing P values among possible combinations and identified four discontinuous and non-overlapping sets across the LD blocks (p-Selected SNP sets). In a second, partially overlapping sample of 1,072, samples with matching diplotypes comprised of these p-Selected OCA2 SNPs exhibited a rate of C concordance of 96.3% (n = 82), which was significantly greater than that obtained from randomly selected samples (62.6%, n = 246, P<0.0001). In contrast, the rate of C concordance using diplotypes comprised of the 11 identified hap-tags was only 83.7%, and that obtained using diplotypes comprised of all 33 SNPs organized as contiguous sets along the locus (defined by the LD block structure) was only 93.3%. These results confirm that OCA2 is the major human iris color gene and suggest that using an empirical database-driven system, genotypes from a modest number of SNPs within this gene can be used to accurately predict iris melanin content from DNA.
"Quantitative measurements of iris colour have only been used in a few studies. A combination of luminosity and RGB (Red–Green– Blue) values from digital spectroscopy were used to make a continuous representation of eye colours . The H and S components of the HSV (hue–saturation–value) colour spaces were used to investigate association between genetic variants and eye colour . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, we present a new objective method for measuring the eye colour on a continuous scale that allows researchers to associate genetic markers with different shades of eye colour. With the use of the custom designed software Digital Iris Analysis Tool (DIAT), the iris was automatically identified and extracted from high resolution digital images. DIAT was made user friendly with a graphical user interface. The software counted the number of blue and brown pixels in the iris image and calculated a Pixel Index of the Eye (PIE-score) that described the eye colour quantitatively. The PIE-score ranged from -1 to 1 (brown to blue). The software eliminated the need for user based interpretation and qualitative eye colour categories. In 94% (570) of 605 analyzed eye images, the iris region was successfully extracted and a PIE-score was calculated. A very high correlation between the PIE-score and the human perception of eye colour was observed. The correlations between the PIE-scores and the six IrisPlex SNPs (HERC2 rs12913832, OCA2 rs1800407, SLC24A4 rs12896399, TYR rs1393350, SLC45A2 rs16891982 and IRF4 rs12203592) were analyzed in 570 individuals. Significant differences (p<10(-6)) in the PIE-scores of the individuals typed as HERC2 rs12913832 G (PIE=0.99) and rs12913832 GA (PIE=-0.71) or A (PIE=-0.87) were observed. We adjusted for the effect of HERC2 rs12913832 and showed that the quantitative PIE-scores were significantly associated with SNPs with minor effects (OCA2 rs1800407, SLC24A4 rs12896399 and TYR rs1393350) on the eye colour. We evaluated the two published prediction models for eye colour (IrisPlex  and Snipper) and compared the predictions with the PIE-scores. We found good concordance with the prediction from individuals typed as HERC2 rs12913832 G. However, both methods had difficulties in categorizing individuals typed as HERC2 rs12913832 GA because of the large variation in eye colour in HERC2 rs12913832 GA individuals. With the use of the DIAT software and the PIE-score, it will be possible to automatically compare the iris colour of large numbers of iris images obtained by different studies and to perform large meta-studies that may reveal loci with small effects on the eye colour.
"A detailed population based survey of eye colour using a defined scoring system (Frudakis, 2008) tried to associate SNPs spanning the OCA2 locus with this computated numerical value. This identified 33 SNPs that could be used to define six haplotype blocks, which in turn allowed testing of those that best predicted eye colour (Frudakis et al., 2007), notably this approach confirmed the major human iris colour gene as OCA2. We initially conducted a SNP genotyping screen covering the entire OCA2 coding region locus in an association study of eye colour (Duffy et al., 2007), and reported that a three SNP haplotype in the first intron was highly diagnostic for blue eye colour. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The presence of melanin pigment within the iris is responsible for the visual impression of human eye colouration with complex patterns also evident in this tissue, including Fuchs' crypts, nevi, Wolfflin nodules and contraction furrows. The genetic basis underlying the determination and inheritance of these traits has been the subject of debate and research from the very beginning of quantitative trait studies in humans. Although segregation of blue-brown eye colour has been described using a simple Mendelian dominant-recessive gene model this is too simplistic, and a new molecular genetic perspective is needed to fully understand the biological complexities of this process as a polygenic trait. Nevertheless, it has been estimated that 74% of the variance in human eye colour can be explained by one interval on chromosome 15 that contains the OCA2 gene. Fine mapping of this region has identified a single base change rs12913832 T/C within intron 86 of the upstream HERC2 locus that explains almost all of this association with blue-brown eye colour. A model is presented whereby this SNP, serving as a target site for the SWI/SNF family member HLTF, acts as part of a highly evolutionary conserved regulatory element required for OCA2 gene activation through chromatin remodelling. Major candidate genes possibly effecting iris patterns are also discussed, including MITF and PAX6.
"An early linkage study showed that brown hair was linked to 15q (Eiberg and Mohr, 1996). Recently, it has been found that the oculocutaneous albinism type II gene (OCA2) in this region is significantly associated with eye color (Rebbeck et al., 2002; Frudakis et al., 2003, 2007; Zhu et al., 2004; Jannot et al., 2005; Posthuma et al., 2006; Duffy et al., 2007). One 3-SNP haplotype (rs7495174, rs6497268 (now rs4778241), and rs11855019 (now rs4778138)) in the first intron of OCA2 explains 74% of variation in blue: non-blue eye color (Duffy et al., 2007). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genetic studies of pigmentation have benefited from spectrophotometric measures of light-dark hair color. Here we use one of those measures, absorbance at 650 nm, to look for chromosomal regions that harbor genes affecting hair pigmentation. At 7p15.1, marker D7S1808 was suggestive of linkage to light-dark hair color (LOD approximately 2.99). Marker D1S235 at 1q42.3 was suggestive of linkage to hair color (light-dark or blonde-black continuum) (LOD approximately 2.14). However, the most consistent linkage peak was over the gene oculocutaneous albinism type II (OCA2) on chromosome 15. Linkage analysis of both spectrophotometrically quantified and ordered ratings of hair color had LOD scores about 1.2, significant because of the almost perfect concordance. A quantitative transmission disequilibrium test between light-dark hair color and 58 single nucleotide polymorphisms in OCA2 showed that the SNPs rs4778138 (also called rs11855019) and rs1375164 were associated with significantly darker hair color (P approximately 3 x 10(-4) and P approximately 0.03 after correction for multiple testing, respectively). These two SNPs explain 1.54 and 0.85% of variation in the A650t index, respectively.
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