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Carrie McMahon, Jay Neitz, Maureen Neitz; Evaluating the human X-chromosome pigment gene promoter sequences as predictors of L:M cone ratio variation. Journal of Vision 2004;4(3):7. doi: 10.1167/4.3.7.
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Men with normal color vision vary widely in the ratio of long- (L) to middle-wavelength sensitive (M) cones. This variation provides opportunities to test models for the mechanism that produces L versus M cones during development. The L and M photopigment genes lie in a tandem array. Each gene has a promoter, and upstream of each array there is a genetic element, termed the locus control region (LCR), that is required for the expression of both L and M pigment genes. During development, for each cell that has been determined to be an L or M cone, it has been proposed that the LCR acts as a stochastic selector which chooses one gene from the array to be expressed. In this model, the L and M promoters compete for contact with the LCR in each photoreceptor. Theoretically, the promoter that, by chance, is the first to successfully form a stable and permanent complex with the LCR commits the cell to a lifetime of exclusive expression of its associated gene. Under this model, it has been suggested that nucleotide differences in the promoters influence their ability to compete in forming a complex with the LCR. Thus, normal variation in L:M cone ratio is predicted to be associated with nucleotide polymorphisms in the promoters. Here we tested this hypothesis by comparing the L and M promoter sequences for 73 males with normal color vision for whom L:M cone ratio estimates had been obtained previously. The M gene promoter sequences were found to be identical for all 73 males and the L gene promoters were identical for 71 out of the 73 males. Two males had mutations where in each case the L promoter differed by one nucleotide substitution compared to normal. Both of the males with promoter mutations had unusual cone ratios which is consistent with the growing body of evidence indicating that the relative ability of the promoters to form a complex with the LCR is a factor in determining cone ratio. However, the vast majority of cone ratio differences were not associated with any difference in the promoter sequence. To explain the high degree of cone ratio variation among normal males, the mechanism that determines whether a cone is L or M must involve genetic elements that have a high degree of genetic polymorphism in the normal population. The results presented here indicate that there are additional genetic components of the mechanism which remain to be identified and incorporated into the present hypotheses.
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