P gene as an inherited biomarker of human eye color.

Rebbeck TR, Kanetsky PA, Walker AH, Holmes R, Halpern AC, Schuchter LM, Elder DE, Guerry D.

Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA. trebbeck@cceb.med.upenn.edu

Human pigmentation, including eye color, has been associated with skin cancer risk. The P gene is the human homologue to the mouse pink-eye dilution locus and is responsible for oculocutaneous albinism type 2 and other phenotypes that confer eye hypopigmentation. The P gene is located on chromosome 15q11.2-q12, which is also the location of a putative eye pigmentation gene (EYCL3) inferred to exist by linkage analysis. Therefore, the P gene is a strong candidate for determination of human eye color. Using a sample of 629 normally pigmented individuals, we found that individuals were less likely to have blue or gray eyes if they had P gene variants Arg305Trp (P = 0.002), Arg419Gln (P = 0.001), or the combination of both variants (P = 0.003). These results suggest that P gene, in part, determines normal phenotypic variation in human eye color and may therefore represent an inherited biomarker of cutaneous cancer risk.