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The genetic architecture of hair colour in the UK population

By Michael D. Morgan, Erola Pairo-Castineira, Konrad Rawlik, Oriol Canela-Xandri, Jonathan Rees, David Sims, Albert Tenesa, Ian Jackson

Posted 11 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/320267 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07691-z)

We have extensively mapped the genes responsible for hair colour in the UK population. MC1R mutations are well established as the principal genetic cause of red hair colour, but with variable penetrance. We find variation at genes encoding its agonist (POMC), inverse agonist (ASIP) and other loci contribute to red hair and demonstrate epistasis between MC1R and some of these loci. Blonde hair is associated with over 200 loci, and we find a genetic continuum from black through dark and light brown to blonde. Many of the associated genes are involved in hair growth or texture, emphasising the cellular connections between keratinocytes and melanocytes in the determination of hair colour.

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