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Keywords:

  • Color genes;
  • Mouse genetics;
  • Human genetics;
  • Pigmentary disorder;
  • Melanocyte development;
  • Melanosomal proteins;
  • Protein routing

Color loci in mammals are those genetic loci in which mutations can affect pigmentation of the hair, skin, and/or eyes. In the mouse, over 800 phenotypic alleles are now known, at 127 identified color loci. As the number of color loci passed 100 only recently, we celebrate this ‘century’ with an overview of these loci, especially the 59 that have been cloned and sequenced. These fall into a number of functional groups representing melanocyte development and differentiation, melanosomal components, organelle biogenesis, organelle transport, control of pigment-type switching, and some systemic effects. A human ortholog has been identified in all cases, and the majority of these human genes are found to be loci for human disorders, often affecting other body systems as well as pigmentation. We expect that a significant number of color loci remain to be identified. Nonetheless, the large number known already provide a treasury of resources for reconstruction of the mechanisms, at the subcellular, cellular and tissue levels, that produce a functional pigmentary system and contribute to the normal development and functioning of many other organ systems. The mutant mice also provide valuable models for the study of human disease.