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Gene implicated in human pigment variation

Single nucleotide distinguishes African and European skin colors

Ishani Ganguli(iganguli@the-scientist.com)

A pigmentation gene first identified in zebrafish helps explain skin color differences between human European and African populations, a new Sciencestudy shows. A derived variant of the slc24a5 gene, which is correlated with light skin color and differs from the ancestral allele by only one nucleotide, seems to have undergone strong natural selection in European populations.

While scientists had previously found pigmentation genes that contribute to variations within populations, said senior author Keith Cheng, "it's been a complete mystery" as to what drives major variations in human skin color. "It's remarkable that this difference in skin color that has historically been partly responsible for a great deal of problems in our civilization is due to this one nucleotide out of 3 billion," Cheng told The Scientist.

"What these findings speak to is the molecular differences that explain differences in skin color. That is very different than...

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