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Mol Vis. 2011;17:2455-68. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Complex interactions of Tyrp1 in the eye.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Hamilton Eye Institute, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN, USA.



To use a systems genetics approach to construct and analyze co-expression networks that are causally linked to mutations in a key pigementation gene, tyrosinase-related protein 1 (Tyrp1), that is associated both with oculocutaneous albinism type 3 (OCA3) in humans and with glaucoma in mice.


Gene expression patterns were measured in whole eyes of a large family of BXD recombinant inbred (RI) mice derived from parental lines that encode for wildtype (C57BL/6J) and mutant (DBA/2J) Tyrp1. Protein levels of Tyrp1 were measured in whole eyes and isolated irides. Bioinformatics analyses were performed on the expression data along with our archived sequence data. Separate data sets were generated which were comprised of strains that harbor either wildtype or mutant Tyrp1 and each was mined individually to identify gene networks that covary significantly with each isoform of Tyrp1. Ontology trees and network graphs were generated to probe essential function and statistical significance of covariation. Genes with strong covariance in wildtype mice were assembled into genome-wide heatmaps for cohorts carrying either wildtype or mutant Tyrp1.


Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis verified the presence of the Tyrp1b mutation in the Tyrp1 gene. Message levels were greater in BXD strains with the mutant Tyrp1. Interval mapping of these BXD mice revealed a strong expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) on Chr 4 at the location of the gene itself. Composite mapping revealed a suggestive eQTL on Chr 9 at the location of myosin-Va (Myo5a), mutations in which are known as dilute. Enriched biologic processes associated with wildtype Tyrp1 included pigmentation, melanin biosynthetic process, and mesenchymal cell development, while associations with the mutant gene included categories of neural crest cell development, protein metabolic processes and glycoprotein metabolic processes. Genome-wide heatmaps revealed strong candidate cis-eQTLs on Chr 4 at Tyrp1 and on Chr 9 at Myo5a in all mice. In the wildtype data set, Tyrp1 was an upstream regulator of six pigmentation and two mesenchyme genes. In addition, five genes, including Tyrp1, were at least partially regulated by Myo5a. Analyses of the strains harboring the mutant gene revealed significant loss of correlation to traditional genes and gain of correlation to genes with little or no functional relationship.


These findings indicate that the Tyrp1(b) mutation modifies the pathways and gene networks in which Tyrp1 functions. Our results also indicate direct and indirect regulatory control of Tyrp1 and other pigmentation and mesenchymal genes by Myo5a. Lastly, we find that the mutations reduce the ability of Tyrp1 to regulate expression of other genes that participate in pigmentation metabolism.

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