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Eye color

Eye color
regulatory region, explains most human eyecolor variation. [6]

Genetic determination of eye color
Eye colors can range from the most common color, brown, to the least common, green. Rare genetic mutations can even lead to unusual eye colors: black, red, or the appearance of "violet." Eye color is an inherited trait influenced by more than one gene.[7][8] These genes are being sought using associations to small changes in the genes themselves and in neighboring genes. These changes are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. The actual number of genes that contribute to eye color is currently unknown, but there are a few likely candidates. A study in 2009 found that it was possible to predict the color of eyes in Rotterdam with more than 90% accuracy for brown and blue, using just six SNPs (from six genes) [9] The gene OCA2 (OMIM: 203200), when in a variant form the gene causes the pink eye color and hypopigmentation common in human albinism. (The name of the gene is derived from the disorder it causes, oculocutaneous albinism type II.) Different SNPs within OCA2 are strongly associated with blue and green eyes as well as variations in freckling, mole counts, hair and skin tone. The polymorphisms may be in an OCA2 regulatory sequence, where they may influence the expression of the gene product, which in turn affects pigmentation.[6] A specific mutation within the HERC2 gene, a gene that regulates OCA2 expression, is partly responsible for blue eyes.[10] Other genes implicated in eye color variation are: SLC24A4,[11] TYR.[11] Blue eyes with a brown spot, green eyes and gray eyes are caused by an entirely different part of the genome. As Eiberg said: "The SNP rs12913832 [of the Herc2 gene] is found to be associated with the brown and blue eye color, but this single DNA variation cannot explain all the brown eye color variation from dark brown over hazel to blue eyes with brown spots."

Eye color map. Dark eye color determined as variants of the brown eyes, light eye color determined as variants of the blue, green and gray eyes. Eye color is a polygenic phenotypic character and is determined by the amount and type of pigments in the eye’s iris.[1][2] Humans and animals have many phenotypic variations in eye color, as blue, brown, green and others. These variations constitute phenotypic traits. [3] In human eyes, these variations in color are attributed to varying ratios of eumelanin produced by melanocytes in the iris.[2] The brightly colored eyes of many bird species are largely determined by other pigments, such as pteridines, purines, and carotenoids.[4] Three main elements within the iris contribute to its color: the melanin content of the iris pigment epithelium, the melanin content within the iris stroma, and the cellular density of the iris stroma.[5] In eyes of all colors, the iris pigment epithelium contains the black pigment, eumelanin.[2][5] Color variations among different irises are typically attributed to the melanin content within the iris stroma.[5] The density of cells within the stroma affects how much light is absorbed by the underlying pigment epithelium.[5] OCA2 gene polymorphism, close to proximal 5′


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Eye color
surrounding environment), so is the perception of eye color.[15] Eye color exists on a continuum from the darkest shades of brown to the lightest shades of blue.[7] Seeing the need for a standardized classification system that was simple, yet detailed enough for research purposes, Seddon et al developed a graded one based on the predominant iris color and the amount of brown or yellow pigment present.[16] There are 3 true colors in the eyes that determine the outward appearance; brown, yellow, and blue. How much of each color one has determines the appearance of the eye color. The color of the eyes in turn depends on how much of these colors are present. For example, green eyes have blue and some yellow , making them appear green. Brown eyes appear brown because most of the eye contains the brown color. The above is true for Homo sapiens; the iris color can vary in the animal world. Instead of blue in humans, autosomal recessive color in the species Corucia zebrata is black, whereas the autosomal dominant color is yellow-green.[17]


Schematic representation of different eye colors resulting from different conditions in the iris.[12]

Classification of colors

Changes in eye color throughout life
In caucasian populations, children are most commonly born with unpigmented (blue) eyes. As the child develops, Melanocytes, cells found within the iris of human eyes (as well as skin and hair follicles) slowly begin to produce Melanin. Because Melanocyte cells continually produce pigment, eye color in theory, can be changed. Changes (lightening or darkening) of eye colors during puberty, early childhood, pregnancy, and sometimes after serious trauma (like Heterochromia), do represent cause for plausible argument to state that some eyes can or do change, based on chemical reactions and hormonal changes within the body. Studies on Caucasian twins, both fraternal and identical, have shown that eye color over time can be subject to change, and major demelanization of the iris may also be genetically determined. Most eye color changes have been observed or reported as caucasians with "Hazel" eyes (Arch Ophthalmol).

The perception of color depends upon various factors. These are the same eyes; however, depending on the light and surrounding hues, the eye color can appear quite different. Iris color can provide a large amount of information about an individual and a classification of various colors may be useful in documenting pathological changes or determining how a person may respond to various ocular pharmaceuticals.[13] Various classification systems have ranged from a basic "light" or "dark" description to detailed gradings employing photographic standards for comparison.[13] Others have attempted to set objective standards of color comparison.[14] As the perception of color is dependent on viewing conditions (e.g. the amount and type of illumination, as well as the hue of the


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Eye color
Owl are thought to be due to the presence of the pteridine pigment xanthopterin within certain chromatophores (called xanthophores) located in the iris stroma.[21] In humans, yellowish specks or patches are thought to be due to the pigment lipofuscin, also known as lipochrome.[22]

Eye color chart (MartinSchultz scale)
Carleton Coon created this chart by the Martin-Schultz scale often used in physical anthropology. I. LIGHT EYES: • – gray, blue, green. • : a) very light-mixed (blue with gray or green or green with gray), b) light-mixed (light or very light-mixed with small admixture of brown pigment). Eyes light and light mixed are in 16-12 in Martin scale. II. MIXED EYES: • – [12-6 in Martin scale] mixture of light eyes (blue, gray or green) with brown pigment when light and brown pigment are the same level. Some of mixed eyes are accept to light-pigment eyes. III. DARK EYES: • - (hazel) [6-4 in Martin scale] brown with small admixture of light pigment. • – [4-1 in Martin scale] brown (light brown and dark brown) and very dark brown (black).


A blue iris


Human amber eyes displaying the yellow pigments. Amber eyes are of a solid color and have a strong yellowish/golden and russet/coppery tint. This might be due to the deposition of the yellow pigment called "lipochrome" in the iris (which is also found in green and violet eyes).[18][19] Amber eyes should not be confused with hazel eyes; although hazel eyes may contain specks of amber or gold, they usually tend to comprise many other colors, including green, brown and orange. Also, hazel eyes may appear to shift in color and consist of flecks and ripples; while amber eyes are of a solid gold hue. The eyes of some pigeons contain yellow fluorescing pigments known as pteridines.[20] The bright yellow eyes of the Great Horned

Blue eyes contain low amounts of melanin within the iris stroma; longer wavelengths of light tend to be absorbed by the underlying iris pigment epithelium, and shorter wavelengths are reflected and undergo Rayleigh scattering.[5] The type of melanin present is eumelanin.[23] The inheritance pattern followed by blue eyes is considered similar to that of a recessive trait, however it is a polygenic trait (meaning that it is controlled by the interactions of several genes, not just one).[8] Eiberg and colleagues showed in a study published in Human Genetics that a mutation in the 86th intron of the HERC2 gene, which is hypothesized to interact with the OCA2 gene promoter, reduced expression of OCA2 with subsequent reduction in melanin production.[24] The authors concluded that the mutation may have arisen in a single individual in the Near East or around the Black Sea region 6,000-10,000 years ago during the neolithic revolution,[25][26] perhaps suggesting that all people with pure blue eyes are more closely related. However, blue eyes with brown spots around the pupil are not related to this mutation.


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Blue eyes are most common in Northern and Central Europe and to a lesser degree in Southern Europe and also North America,[27], they are also found in parts of North Africa[28], West Asia, and South Asia, in the northern areas in particular. However blue eyes are not found within the population of East Asia, due to the major pre-dominance of the brown eye gene in the area. A 2002 study found the prevalence of blue eye color among Caucasians in the United States to be 33.8 percent for those born from 1936 through 1951 compared with 57.4 percent for those born from 1899 through 1905.[8] Blue eyes have become increasingly rare among American children with only 1 out of every 6 – 16.6 percent which is 49.8 million out of 300 million (22.4% of white Americans) of the total United States population having blue eyes.[29][30] The plunge in the past few decades has taken place at a remarkable rate. A century ago, 80 percent of people married within their ethnic group. Blue eyes, a genetically recessive trait, were routinely passed down, especially among people of English, Irish, and Northern European ancestry.[29][30] [31] In the 1930s, eugenicists used the disappearance of blue eyes as a rallying cry to support immigration restrictions. They went so far as to map the parts of the country with the highest and lowest percentage of blue-eyed people. The outer surface of the iris of a blue eyed person is actually clear, lacking the outer layer of pigmentation that is found in brown eyes. Their color is caused by the inner layer of pigmentation and the semi-opaque fibrous tissues which lay between the two layers.[32]

Eye color

Dark Brown human iris Brown eyes are predominant in humans[33] and, in most populations and countries, it is (with few exceptions) the only iris color present.[34] It is less common in countries around the Baltic Sea and in Scandinavia. Dark pigment of brown eyes are most common and with a few exceptions the only color among the population of East Asia. In humans, brown eyes contain large amounts of melanin within the iris stroma, which serves to absorb light at both shorter and longer wavelengths. Brown eyes are the most common eye color, with over half of the world’s population having them (Including hazel and amber eyes the ratio can reach over 90%).



A steel blue-grey eye Grey eyes have less melanin than blue eyes, even though they are considered a darker shade of blue (like blue-green). Grey eyes are most common in European Russia, Finland

Light brown human iris


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Eye color

Olive green eyes Green eyes are the product of low to moderate amounts of melanin and fatty acids and probably represent the interaction of multiple variants within the OCA2 and in other genes, including perhaps the red-hair gene.[38] They are most common in Northern Europe and Central Europe.[39][40]. A study of Icelandic and Dutch adults found that green eyes are much more prevalent in women than in men.[41] Almost 92% of the population in Iceland has either green or blue eye color.[42] Among White Americans, green eyes are most common among those of Celtic and Germanic ancestry, about 16 percent.[43]

Gray eye under magnification, exhibiting small amounts of yellow and the Baltic States. Under magnification, grey eyes exhibit small amounts of yellow and brown colour in the iris. Ultimately there are at least two things that could determine grey eye colour. The first is the amount of melanin made. And the second is the density of the proteins in the stroma. [35] A grey iris may indicate the presence of a uveitis. However, other visual signs make a uveitis obvious. Gray iris colour, as well as blue, are at increased risk of uveal melanoma. [36] Visually, grey eyes often tend to appear to change between the shades of blue, green and grey; this is because grey eyes are extremely light, as mentioned before. The colour change for grey eyes is usually influenced by the lighting and the colours in the surroundings (such as clothes, makeup, etc.). The Greek goddess Athena was renowned for having "owl-grey" or "sea-grey" eyes (in Greek, γλαυκῶπις – glaukōpis).[37]

Hazel eyes are due to a combination of Rayleigh scattering and a more than moderate amount of melanin in the iris’ anterior border layer.[5][22] Hazel eyes often appear to shift in color from a light brown to a medium golden-dark green. A number of studies using three-point scales have assigned "hazel" to be the medium-color between the lightest shade of blue and darkest shade of brown.[44][45][46][47][48][49][50] This can sometimes produce a multicolored iris, i.e., an eye that is light brown near the pupil and charcoal or amber/dark green on the outer part of the iris (and vice versa) when observed in sunlight. Hazel is commonly found in Europe, some regions of the Middle East, North America, parts of Central Asia and parts of South Asia. Definitions of the eye color "hazel" vary: it is sometimes considered to be synonymous with light-brown and gold.[44][46][49][51][52][53][54][55][56] In North America, "hazel" is often used to describe eyes that appear to change color.


Light green eyes


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Eye color
which appears absent on superficial examination.[61]

The eyes of a person with albinism may appear red under certain lighting conditions due to the very low quantities of melanin.[57] "True" red eyes also exist in albinistic and even some non-albinistic populations, but are very rare. Only about 20 cases of natural red eyes are recognized throughout the world.

Ocular albinism and eye color
Normally, there is a thick layer of melanin on the back of the iris. Even people with the lightest blue eyes, with no melanin on the front of the iris at all, have dark brown coloration on the back of it, to prevent light from scattering around inside the eye. In those with milder forms of albinism, the color of the irises is typically blue, but can vary from blue to brown. In severe forms of albinism, there is no pigment on the back of the iris, and light from inside the eye can pass through the iris to the front. In these cases, the only color seen is the red from the hemoglobin of the blood in the capillaries of the iris. Such albinos have pink eyes, as do albino rabbits, mice, or any other animal with total lack of melanin. Transillumination defects can almost always be observed during an eye examination due to lack of iridial pigmentation.[62] The ocular albino also lacks normal amounts of melanin in the retina as well, which allows more light than normal to reflect off the retina and out of the eye. Because of this, the pupillary reflex is much brighter in the albino, and this can increase the red eye effect in photographs.

The appearance of "violet" eyes is thought to occur from the mixing of red and blue reflections.[58] Some albinos have eyes that appear violet.[59] Violet eyes are genetically similar to blue eyes, i.e., they are a reflection, pigment, or variant of blue. Violet eyes are extremely rare; some people remain convinced that it is impossible to have violet colored eyes. However, violet eyes are commonly found in a few remote and high altitude areas of northern Kashmir. Elizabeth Taylor is occasionally described as having violet eyes.

Medical implications
Those with lighter iris color have been found to have a higher prevalence of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) than those with darker iris color;[48] lighter eye color is also associated with an increased risk of ARMD progression.[60] An increased risk of uveal melanoma has been found in those with blue, green or gray iris color.[36][42] Eye color may also be symptomatic of disease. Aside from the iris, yellowing of the whites of the eyes is associated with jaundice and symptomatic of liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis and malaria.


An example of complete heterochromia. The subject has one brown and one hazel eye. The subject also appears to have a faint star pattern in the hazel iris.

Anomalous conditions

Aniridia: Eyes wherein the irises are not present; the eyes appear to be two large pupils.

Aniridia is a congenital condition characterized by an extremely underdeveloped iris

An example of sectoral heterochromia. The subject has a blue iris with a brown section.


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Heterochromia (also known as a heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridium) is an ocular condition in which one iris is a different color from the other iris (complete heterochromia), or where the part of one iris is a different color from the remainder (partial heterochromia or sectoral heterochromia). It is a result of the relative excess or lack of pigment within an iris or part of an iris, which may be inherited or acquired by disease or injury.[63] This uncommon condition usually results due to uneven melanin content. A number of causes are responsible, including genetics such as chimerism, Horners Syndrome and Waardenburg syndrome. A common cause in females with heterochromia is X-inactivation, which can result in a number of heterochromatic traits, such as calico cats. Trauma and certain medications, such as some prostaglandin analogues can also cause increased or decreased pigmentation in one eye. On occasion, the condition of having two different colored eyes is caused by blood staining the iris after sustaining injury.

Eye color






Eye color change
Often, newborns have blue eyes, which change to green, hazel, light brown or dark brown. This is possibly the origin of the idiom "being blue-eyed" (i.e. naïve; gullible) or having "baby blues", or striking blue eye color. It is thought that exposure to light after birth triggers the production of melanin in the iris of the eye. By three years of age, the eyes produce and store enough melanin to indicate their natural shade. While changes in eye color of infants are more common, even in adults, eye color changes are seen, most often as a result of exposure to the sun. Sunlight triggers melanin production in the eye, as it does to the skin. Eyedrops containing a prostaglandin analogue (such as latanoprost) may result in a permanently darkened iris; these eyedrops are commonly used to treat open-angle glaucoma.[64]




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j.1600-0749.2005.00268.x. PMID 16280011. ^ Prota G, Hu DN, Vincensi MR, McCormick SA, Napolitano A (September 1998). "Characterization of melanins in human irides and cultured uveal melanocytes from eyes of different colors". Exp. Eye Res. 67 (3): 293–9. doi:10.1006/exer.1998.0518. PMID 9778410. Morris, PJ. "Phenotypes and Genotypes for human eye colors." Athro Limited website. Retrieved May 10, 2006. Oliphant LW (1987). "Pteridines and purines as major pigments of the avian iris". Pigment Cell Res. 1 (2): 129–31. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0749.1987.tb00401.x. PMID 3507666. ^ Huiqiong Wang, Stephen Lin, Xiaopei Liu, Sing Bing Kang. "Separating Reflections in Human Iris Images for Illumination Estimation." Proc. IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, 2005. ^ Duffy DL, Montgomery GW, Chen W, et al (February 2007). "A three-singlenucleotide polymorphism haplotype in intron 1 of OCA2 explains most human eye-color variation". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 80 (2): 241–52. doi:10.1086/510885. PMID 17236130. ^ Sturm RA, Frudakis TN (August 2004). "Eye colour: portals into pigmentation genes and ancestry". Trends Genet. 20 (8): 327–32. doi:10.1016/ j.tig.2004.06.010. PMID 15262401. http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/ ~pfuerst/courses/eeobmg640/ reading1eyecolor.pdf. ^ Grant MD, Lauderdale DS (2002). "Cohort effects in a genetically determined trait: eye colour among US whites". Ann. Hum. Biol. 29 (6): 657–66. doi:10.1080/03014460210157394. PMID 12573082. "DNA test for eye colour could help fight crime", New Scientist 14 March, 2009. Fan Liu, van Duijn K, Vingerling JR, et al. (10 March 2009). "Eye color and the prediction of complex phenotypes from genotypes". Current Biology 19 (5): R192–R193. doi:10.1016/ j.cub.2009.01.027. http://www.sciencedirect.com/ science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VRT-4VT0BCKB&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=


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"Cutaneous malignant melanoma in women. Phenotypic characteristics, sun exposure, and hormonal factors: a casecontrol study from Italy". Ann Epidemiol 15 (7): 545–50. doi:10.1016/ j.annepidem.2004.10.005. PMID 16029848. [54] April Holladay. "Funny — you can’t hide those lightening eyes." USATODAY.com. October 8, 2004. Retrieved September 17, 2006. [55] English JS, Swerdlow AJ, MacKie RM, et al (January 1987). "Relation between phenotype and banal melanocytic naevi". Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 294 (6565): 152–4. doi:10.1136/bmj.294.6565.152. PMID 3109545. [56] Hara T (May 2001). "[Increased iris pigmentation after use of latanoprost in Japanese brown eyes]" (in Japanese). Nippon Ganka Gakkai Zasshi 105 (5): 314–21. PMID 11406947. [57] NOAH — What is Albinism? [58] BBC - h2g2 - Determination of Eye Color [59] http://farm1.static.flickr.com/206/ 463760280_9f62450fa3.jpg [60] Nicolas CM, Robman LD, Tikellis G, et al (December 2003). "Iris colour, ethnic origin and progression of age-related macular degeneration". Clin. Experiment. Ophthalmol. 31 (6): 465–9. doi:10.1046/j.1442-9071.2003.00711.x. PMID 14641151. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/

Eye color

resolve/ openurl?genre=article&sid=nlm:pubmed&issn=1442 [61] Aniridia at eMedicine [62] Ocular Manifestations of Albinism at eMedicine [63] Imesch PD, Wallow IH, Albert DM (February 1997). "The color of the human eye: a review of morphologic correlates and of some conditions that affect iridial pigmentation". Surv Ophthalmol 41 (Suppl 2): S117–23. doi:10.1016/S0039-6257(97)80018-5. PMID 9154287. [64] Hejkal TW, Camras CB (1999). "Prostaglandin analogs in the treatment of glaucoma". Seminars in ophthalmology 14 (3): 114–23. doi:10.3109/08820539909061464. PMID 10790575.

See also
• • • • • Iridology Hair color Human skin color Xanthophore List of Mendelian traits in humans

External links
• Genetics of eye color • Eye Color and Human Diseases • Various links on human eye color

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_color" Categories: Eye, Facial features This page was last modified on 18 May 2009, at 19:49 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers


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