Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 1: The Last 100 Years


* Address reprint requests to William S. Oetting Ph.D., Department of Medicine, Mayo Mail Code 485, 420 Delaware St. S.E., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail: bill@lenti.med.umn.edu


Research on human albinism has been central to many of the major discoveries in human genetics. These include the first evidence that Mendel's rules of genetic segregation apply to humans, first published in 1903. Contrary to initial thought that albinism is caused by mutations in a single gene, we now know that the genetics of albinism are complex. The complexity of albinism was hinted at, in early publications, but has only recently been fully appreciated with the advent of molecular techniques. Currently, 12 different genes have been identified, that when mutated, result in a different type of albinism. Oculocutaneous albinism type 1 (OCA1), resulting from mutations of the tyrosinase gene, is genetically and biochemically the best understood type of albinism. Though much of the research in albinism has involved OCA1, there are many unanswered questions about OCA1 and albinism, in general. The next 100 yr should still provide many surprises as did the first 100 yr.