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Two Variants in SLC24A5 Are Associated with “Tiger-Eye” Iris Pigmentation in Puerto Rican Paso Fino Horses


A unique eye color, called tiger-eye, segregates in the Puerto Rican Paso Fino (PRPF) horse breed and is characterized by a bright yellow, amber, or orange iris. Pedigree analysis identified a simple autosomal recessive mode of inheritance for this trait. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) with 24 individuals identified a locus on ECA 1 reaching genome-wide significance (Pcorrected = 1.32 × 10-5). This ECA1 locus harbors the candidate gene, Solute Carrier Family 24 (Sodium/Potassium/Calcium Exchanger), Member 5 (SLC24A5), with known roles in pigmentation in humans, mice, and zebrafish. Humans with compound heterozygous mutations in SLC24A5 have oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) type 6 (OCA6), which is characterized by dilute skin, hair, and eye pigmentation, as well as ocular anomalies. Twenty tiger-eye horses were homozygous for a nonsynonymous mutation in exon 2 (p.Phe91Tyr) of SLC24A5 (called here Tiger-eye 1), which is predicted to be deleterious to protein function. Additionally, eight of the remaining 12 tiger-eye horses heterozygous for the p.Phe91Tyr variant were also heterozygous for a 628 bp deletion encompassing all of exon 7 of SLC24A5 (c.875-340_1081+82del), which we will call here the Tiger-eye 2 allele. None of the 122 brown-eyed horses were homozygous for either tiger-eye-associated allele or were compound heterozygotes. Further, neither variant was detected in 196 horses from four related breeds not known to have the tiger-eye phenotype. Here, we propose that two mutations in SLC24A5 affect iris pigmentation in tiger-eye PRPF horses. Further, unlike OCA6 in humans, the Tiger-eye 1 mutation in its homozygous state or as a compound heterozygote (Tiger-eye 1/Tiger-eye 2) does not appear to cause ocular anomalies or a change in coat color in the PRPF horse.

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