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Nat Genet. 2006 Mar;38(3):324-30. Epub 2006 Jan 29.

A SNP in the ABCC11 gene is the determinant of human earwax type.

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  • 1Department of Human Genetics, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan.


Human earwax consists of wet and dry types. Dry earwax is frequent in East Asians, whereas wet earwax is common in other populations. Here we show that a SNP, 538G --> A (rs17822931), in the ABCC11 gene is responsible for determination of earwax type. The AA genotype corresponds to dry earwax, and GA and GG to wet type. A 27-bp deletion in ABCC11 exon 29 was also found in a few individuals of Asian ancestry. A functional assay demonstrated that cells with allele A show a lower excretory activity for cGMP than those with allele G. The allele A frequency shows a north-south and east-west downward geographical gradient; worldwide, it is highest in Chinese and Koreans, and a common dry-type haplotype is retained among various ethnic populations. These suggest that the allele A arose in northeast Asia and thereafter spread through the world. The 538G --> A SNP is the first example of DNA polymorphism determining a visible genetic trait.

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