Molecular genetics of colour vision deficiencies

Clin Exp Optom. 2004 Jul;87(4-5):224-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1444-0938.2004.tb05052.x.


Common variation in colour vision exists among both colour normal and colour deficient subjects. Differences at a few amino acid positions that influence the spectra of the L and M cone pigments account for most of this variation. The genes encoding the L and M photopigments are arranged in head-to-tail arrays on the X-chromosome, beginning with the L and followed by one or more M pigment genes. The L and M pigment genes are highly homologous, which predisposed them to unequal crossing over (recombination) resulting in gene deletions and in formation of L/M hybrid genes that encode a variety of pigments with either L-like or M-like spectra that account for the majority of colour vision defects. Only the first two pigment genes of the L/M array are expressed in the retina and, therefore, need to be considered in predicting colour vision. A common single amino acid polymorphism (serine or alanine) at position 180 of the L-pigment plays an important role both in variation in normal colour vision and in the severity of colour vision defects. Blue cone monochromacy is a rare form of colour vision deficiency that results from mutations that abolish function of both the L and M pigment genes. All the above defects are inherited as X-linked recessive traits. Tritanopia is also a rare autosomal dominant colour vision defect caused by mutations in the S pigment gene located on chromosome 7. Total colour blindness (achromatopsia or rod monochromacy) is a rare autosomal recessive trait caused by mutations in genes encoding the proteins of the photoreceptor cation channel or cone transducin that are essential for function of all classes of cone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Color Vision Defects / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Biology*
  • Pedigree