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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Feb;86(3):983-7.

Molecular patterns of X chromosome-linked color vision genes among 134 men of European ancestry.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


We used Southern blot hybridization to study X chromosome-linked color vision genes encoding the apoproteins of red and green visual pigments in 134 unselected Caucasian men. One hundred and thirteen individuals (84.3%) had a normal arrangement of their color vision pigment genes. All had one red pigment gene; the number of green pigment genes ranged from one to five with a mode of two. The frequency of molecular genotypes indicative of normal color vision (84.3%) was significantly lower than had been observed in previous studies of color vision phenotypes. Color vision defects can be due to deletions of red or green pigment genes or due to formation of hybrid genes comprising portions of both red and green pigment genes [Nathans, J., Piantanida, T.P., Eddy, R.L., Shows, T.B., Jr., & Hogness, D.S. (1986) Science 232, 203-210]. Characteristic anomalous patterns were seen in 15 (11.2%) individuals: 7 (5.2%) had patterns characteristic of deuteranomaly (mild defect in green color perception), 2 (1.5%) had patterns characteristic of deuteranopia (severe defect in green color perception), and 6 (4.5%) had protan patterns (the red perception defects protanomaly and protanopia cannot be differentiated by current molecular methods). Previously undescribed hybrid gene patterns consisting of both green and red pigment gene fragments in addition to normal red and green genes were observed in another 6 individuals (4.5%). Only 2 of these patterns were considered as deuteranomalous. Thus, DNA testing detected anomalous color vision pigment genes at a higher frequency than expected from phenotypic color vision tests. Some color vision gene arrays associated with hybrid genes are likely to mediate normal color vision.

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