Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) is a heterogeneous group of autosomal recessive disorders characterized by an abnormally low amount of melanin in the eyes, skin and hair, and associated with common developmental abnormalities of the eye. Defects in the tyrosinase gene (TYR) cause a common type of OCA, known as oculocutaneous albinism type 1 (OCA1). The molecular basis of OCA has been studied extensively in different population groups, but very little information is available on Indian patients. Our investigation covering thirteen ethnic groups of India, some representing >20 million people, revealed that among 25 OCA families 12 were affected with OCA1, and that these cases were primarily due to founder mutations in TYR. We detected nine mutations and eight SNPs in TYR, of which six mutations (five point mutations & one gross deletion) were novel. In contrast to most reports describing compound heterozygotes, the presence of homozygotes in 10 out of the 12 pedigrees underscores the lack of intermixing between these ethnic groups in India. Haplotype analysis suggested a few founder chromosomes causing the disease in the majority of the patients. Direct detection of the mutations prevalent in specific ethnic groups could be used for carrier detection and genetic counselling.
- Oculocutaneous albinism type 1
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