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Hum Mutat. 1999;13(2):99-115.

Molecular basis of albinism: mutations and polymorphisms of pigmentation genes associated with albinism.

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Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


Albinism, caused by a deficiency of melanin pigment in the skin, hair, and eye (oculocutaneous albinism [OCA]), or primarily in the eye (ocular albinism [OA]), results from mutations in genes involved in the biosynthesis of melanin pigment. The lack of melanin pigment in the developing eye leads to fovea hypoplasia and abnormal routing of the optic nerves. These changes are responsible for the nystagmus, strabismus, and reduced visual acuity common to all types of albinism. Mutations in six genes have been reported to be responsible for different types of oculocutaneous and ocular albinism, including the tyrosinase gene (TYR) and OCA1 (MIM# 203100), the OCA2 gene and OCA2 (MIM# 203200), the tyrosinase-related protein-1 gene (TYRP1) and OCA3 (MIM# 203290), the HPS gene and Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome (MIM# 203300), the CHS gene (CHS1), and Chediak-Higashi syndrome (MIM# 214500), and the X-linked ocular albinism gene and OA1 (MIM#300500). The function of only two of the gene products is known tyrosinase and tyrosinase-related protein-1 both of which are enzymes in the melanin biosynthetic pathway. Continued mutational analysis coupled with function/structure studies should aid our understanding of the function of the remaining genes and their role in albinism. Mutation and polymorphism data on these genes are available from the International Albinism Center Albinism Database web site (

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