A Polymorphism Study of the Human Agouti Gene and its Association with MC1R


Address reprint requests to Dr. Angela van Daal, CRC for Diagnostic Technologies, Life Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, 2 George Street, Brisbane 4000, Australia. E-mail: a.vandaal@qut.edu.au


To determine whether the Agouti Signalling Protein (ASP) gene is associated with skin and hair coloration in humans, the complete coding region of ASP was screened for polymorphisms. Analysis of ASP in Caucasian, African-American, Spanish Basque, Hispanic, Apache and Australian Aboriginal populations revealed no amino acid substitutions. A single polymorphism in the 3′ untranslated region occurred at a frequency of 0.2 in African-Americans. Variants of the Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) gene have been found to be associated with red hair and fair skin in humans. Red hair individuals are usually compound heterozygotes or homozygous for one of a number of MC1R polymorphisms associated with red hair. Some individuals however are heterozygous for only one of these polymorphisms and dizygotic twins can be concordant for MC1R variants but discordant for hair colour. A recent study has also identified rare redheads carrying no MC1R variants indicating that polymorphisms of the human MC1R gene are required but not sufficient for the red hair phenotype. To address the question of whether ASP also contributes to the red hair phenotype, individuals previously identified as having unexpected MC1R genotypes were screened for polymorphisms at the ASP locus. No polymorphisms were found in any of these individuals. Results indicate that the human ASP gene is unlikely to function in normal human pigmentation in the same way as MC1R.