Association of melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R) polymorphisms with skin reflectance and freckles in Japanese
Most studies on the genetic basis of human skin pigmentation have focused on people of European ancestry and only a few studies have focused on Asian populations. We investigated the association of skin reflectance and freckling with genetic variants of melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene in Japanese. DNA samples were obtained from a total of 653 Japanese individuals (ages 19–40 years) residing in Okinawa; skin reflectance was measured using a spectrophotometer and freckling status was determined for each individual. Lightness index (L*) and freckling status were not correlated with age, body mass index or ancestry (Ryukyuan or Main Islanders of Japan). Among the 10 nonsynonymous variants that were identified by direct sequencing of the coding region of MC1R, two variants—R163Q and V92M—with the derived allele frequencies of 78.6 and 5.5%, respectively, were most common. Multiple regression analysis showed that the 163Q allele and the presence of nonsynonymous rare variants (allele frequencies <5%) were significantly associated with an increase in sex-standardized skin lightness (L* of CIELAB (CIE 1976 (L*a*b*) color space)) of the inner upper arm. Relative to the 92V allele, the 92M allele was significantly associated with increased odds of freckling. This is the first study to show an association between the 163Q allele and skin reflectance values; this association indicated that light-toned skin may have been subjected to positive selection in East Asian people.