Variation in the tyrosinase gene associated with a white humpback whale (megaptera novaeangliae)

Andrea M. Polanowski, Sarah M. Robinson-Laverick, David Paton, Simon N. Jarman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


Tyrosinase-negative oculocutaneous albinism (OCA1A) is characterized by lifelong white hair and skin, a phenotype that has been described in most mammalian species worldwide. Tyrosinase is the key enzyme in melanin biosynthesis, and mutations in the tyrosinase gene result in OCA1A. We examined sequence variation at exon 1 of the tyrosinase gene in 66 humpback whale samples collected from the east coast of Australia, including an anomalously white humpback whale known as "Migaloo." We identified 3 novel variants, including a cytosine deletion that results in a premature stop codon in exon 1. The deletion truncates the tyrosinase protein including the putative catalytic domains that are essential for tyrosinase enzymatic activity. Migaloo was homozygous for this deletion, suggesting that the albino phenotype is a consequence of inactive tyrosinase caused by the frameshift in the tyrosinase gene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-133
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

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