Human Genetics

, Volume 132, Issue 2, pp 147–158 | Cite as

Comprehensive candidate gene study highlights UGT1A and BNC2 as new genes determining continuous skin color variation in Europeans

  • Leonie C. Jacobs
  • Andreas Wollstein
  • Oscar Lao
  • Albert Hofman
  • Caroline C. Klaver
  • André G. Uitterlinden
  • Tamar Nijsten
  • Manfred Kayser
  • Fan Liu
Original Investigation

Abstract

Natural variation in human skin pigmentation is primarily due to genetic causes rooted in recent evolutionary history. Genetic variants associated with human skin pigmentation confer risk of skin cancer and may provide useful information in forensic investigations. Almost all previous gene-mapping studies of human skin pigmentation were based on categorical skin color information known to oversimplify the continuous nature of human skin coloration. We digitally quantified skin color into hue and saturation dimensions for 5,860 Dutch Europeans based on high-resolution skin photographs. We then tested an extensive list of 14,185 single nucleotide polymorphisms in 281 candidate genes potentially involved in human skin pigmentation for association with quantitative skin color phenotypes. Confirmatory association was revealed for several known skin color genes including HERC2, MC1R, IRF4, TYR, OCA2, and ASIP. We identified two new skin color genes: genetic variants in UGT1A were significantly associated with hue and variants in BNC2 were significantly associated with saturation. Overall, digital quantification of human skin color allowed detecting new skin color genes. The variants identified in this study may also contribute to the risk of skin cancer. Our findings are also important for predicting skin color in forensic investigations.

Supplementary material

439_2012_1232_MOESM1_ESM.doc (596 kb)
Supplementary table 1 (DOC 599 kb)
439_2012_1232_MOESM2_ESM.doc (173 kb)
Supplementary table 2 (DOC 173 kb)
439_2012_1232_MOESM3_ESM.doc (70 kb)
Supplementary table 3 (DOC 69 kb)
439_2012_1232_MOESM4_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary table 4 (DOC 65 kb)
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Supplementary Figure 1a. Example photographs used in this study before masking the eye area. (TIFF 1305 kb)
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Supplementary Figure 1b. Example photographs used in this study after masking the eye area. (TIFF 1231 kb)
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Supplementary Figure 2a. Hue-Brightness color space of the study subjects (N=5,860). The colors represent perceived skin darkness, classified into very white (purple dots), white (yellow dots), and white to olive (blue dots). (TIFF 8500 kb)
439_2012_1232_MOESM8_ESM.tif (2.4 mb)
Supplementary Figure 2b. Brightness-Saturation color space of the study subjects (N=5,860). The colors represent perceived skin darkness, classified into very white (purple dots), white (yellow dots), and white to olive (blue dots). (TIFF 2432 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonie C. Jacobs
    • 1
  • Andreas Wollstein
    • 2
    • 3
  • Oscar Lao
    • 2
  • Albert Hofman
    • 4
  • Caroline C. Klaver
    • 4
    • 5
  • André G. Uitterlinden
    • 4
    • 6
  • Tamar Nijsten
    • 1
  • Manfred Kayser
    • 2
  • Fan Liu
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of DermatologyErasmus MC University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Forensic Molecular BiologyErasmus MC University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Medical Statistics and BioinformaticsLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyErasmus MC University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of OphthalmologyErasmus MC University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Department of Internal MedicineErasmus MC University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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