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Nat Genet. 1999 May;22(1):90-3.

Position of a 'green-red' hybrid gene in the visual pigment array determines colour-vision phenotype.

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Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.


The X-linked red- and green-pigment genes are arranged in a head-to-tail tandem array. The colour-vision defect of deuteranomaly (in 5% of males of European descent) is associated with a 5'-green-red-3' visual-pigment hybrid gene, which may also exist in males with normal colour vision. To explain why males with a normal red, a normal green and a green-red hybrid gene may have either normal or deutan colour vision, we hypothesized that only the first two genes are expressed and deuteranomaly results only if the green-red hybrid gene occupies the second position and is expressed preferentially over normal green-pigment genes occupying more distal positions. We used long-range PCR amplification and studied 10 deutan males (8 deuteranomalous and 2 deuteranopic) with 3 visual pigment genes (red, green and green-red hybrid) to investigate whether position of the hybrid gene in the array determined gene expression. The green-red hybrid gene was always at the second position (and the first position was always occupied by the red gene). Conversely, in two men with red, green and green-red hybrid genes and normal colour vision, the hybrid gene occupied the third position. When pigment gene mRNA expression was assessed in post-mortem retinae of three men with the red, green and green-red genotype, the green-red hybrid gene was expressed only when located in the second position. We conclude that the green-red hybrid gene will only cause deutan defects when it occupies the second position of the pigment gene array.

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