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

J Hered. 2012 Jan-Feb;103(1):130-3. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esr108. Epub 2011 Dec 2.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Albinism, Oculocutaneous / genetics*
  • Animal Diseases / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Exons
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Humpback Whale / genetics*
  • Male
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • Sequence Deletion


  • Monophenol Monooxygenase