Eye color

Close up of a blue/green human iris.

Eye color is a polygenic phenotypic character determined by two distinct factors: the pigmentation of the eye's iris[1][2] and the frequency-dependence of the scattering of light by the turbid medium in the stroma of the iris.[3]:9

In humans, the pigmentation of the iris varies from light brown to black, depending on the concentration of melanin in the iris pigment epithelium (located on the back of the iris), the melanin content within the iris stroma (located at the front of the iris), and the cellular density of the stroma.[4] The appearance of blue and green, as well as hazel eyes, results from the Tyndall scattering of light in the stroma, a phenomenon similar to that which accounts for the blueness of the sky called Rayleigh scattering.[5] Neither blue nor green pigments are ever present in the human iris or ocular fluid.[3][6] Eye color is thus an instance of structural color and varies depending on the lighting conditions, especially for lighter-colored eyes.

The brightly colored eyes of many bird species result from the presence of other pigments, such as pteridines, purines, and carotenoids.[7] Humans and other animals have many phenotypic variations in eye color.[8] The genetics of eye color are complicated, and color is determined by multiple genes. So far, as many as 15 genes have been associated with eye color inheritance. Some of the eye-color genes include OCA2 and HERC2.[9] The earlier belief that blue eye color is a simple recessive trait has been shown to be incorrect. The genetics of eye color are so complex that almost any parent-child combination of eye colors can occur.[10][11] However, OCA2 gene polymorphism, close to proximal 5′ regulatory region, explains most human eye-color variation.[12]

Genetic determination

Eye color is an inherited trait influenced by more than one gene.[13][14] These genes are sought using associations to small changes in the genes themselves and in neighboring genes. These changes are known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. The actual number of genes that contribute to eye color is currently unknown, but there are a few likely candidates. A study in Rotterdam (2009) found that it was possible to predict eye color with more than 90% accuracy for brown and blue using just six SNPs.[15] There is evidence that as many as 16 different genes could be responsible for eye color in humans; however, the main two genes associated with eye color variation are OCA2 and HERC2, and both are localized in Chromosome 15.[9]

The gene OCA2 (OMIM: 203200), when in a variant form, causes the pink eye color and hypopigmentation common in human albinism. (The name of the gene is derived from the disorder it causes, oculocutaneous albinism type II.) Different SNPs within OCA2 are strongly associated with blue and green eyes as well as variations in freckling, mole counts, hair and skin tone. The polymorphisms may be in an OCA2 regulatory sequence, where they may influence the expression of the gene product, which in turn affects pigmentation.[12] A specific mutation within the HERC2 gene, a gene that regulates OCA2 expression, is partly responsible for blue eyes.[16] Other genes implicated in eye color variation are SLC24A4[17] and TYR.[17] A 2010 study on eye color variation into hue and saturation values using high-resolution digital full-eye photographs found three new loci for a total of ten genes, and now about 50% of eye colour variation can be explained.[18]

Gene name Effect on eye color
OCA2 Associated with melanin producing cells. Central importance to eye color.
HERC2 Affects function of OCA2, with a specific mutation strongly linked to blue eyes.
SLC24A4 Associated with differences between blue and green eyes.[17]
TYR Associated with differences between blue and green eyes.[17]

Blue eyes with a brown spot, green eyes, and gray eyes are caused by an entirely different part of the genome.

Other Languages
العربية: لون العين
تۆرکجه: گؤز بویاغی
bosanski: Boja očiju
dansk: Øjenfarve
Deutsch: Augenfarbe
español: Color de ojos
Esperanto: Okula koloro
euskara: Begi kolore
فارسی: رنگ چشم
français: Couleur des yeux
한국어: 눈 색깔
hrvatski: Boja očiju
latviešu: Acu krāsa
magyar: Szemszín
Nederlands: Oogkleur
norsk: Øyenfarge
norsk nynorsk: Augefarge
polski: Kolor oczu
português: Cor dos olhos
русский: Цвет глаз
Simple English: Eye colour
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Boja očiju
தமிழ்: கண் நிறம்
Türkçe: Göz rengi
українська: Колір очей
Tiếng Việt: Màu mắt
中文: 眼睛色彩