2023 journal article

Genetic architecture and evolution of color variation in American black bears

CURRENT BIOLOGY, 33(1), 86-+.

By: E. Puckett*, I. Davis*, D. Harper*, K. Wakamatsu*, G. Battu*, J. Belant*, D. Beyer*, C. Carpenter* ...

TL;DR: A genome-wide association for hair color as a quantitative trait in 151 U. americanus individuals was used and a missense alteration in Tyrosinase-related protein 1 (TYRP1) that likely affects binding of the zinc cofactor, impairs protein localization, and results in decreased pigment production was identified. (via Semantic Scholar)
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Added: September 5, 2023

<h2>Summary</h2> Color variation is a frequent evolutionary substrate for camouflage in small mammals, but the underlying genetics and evolutionary forces that drive color variation in natural populations of large mammals are mostly unexplained. The American black bear, <i>Ursus americanus</i> (<i>U. americanus</i>), exhibits a range of colors including the cinnamon morph, which has a similar color to the brown bear, <i>U. arctos</i>, and is found at high frequency in the American southwest. Reflectance and chemical melanin measurements showed little distinction between <i>U. arctos</i> and cinnamon <i>U. americanus</i> individuals. We used a genome-wide association for hair color as a quantitative trait in 151 <i>U. americanus</i> individuals and identified a single major locus (p < 10<sup>−13</sup>). Additional genomic and functional studies identified a missense alteration (R153C) in <i>Tyrosinase-related protein 1</i> (<i>TYRP1</i>) that likely affects binding of the zinc cofactor, impairs protein localization, and results in decreased pigment production. Population genetic analyses and demographic modeling indicated that the R153C variant arose 9.36 kya in a southwestern population where it likely provided a selective advantage, spreading both northwards and eastwards by gene flow. A different <i>TYRP1</i> allele, R114C, contributes to the characteristic brown color of <i>U. arctos</i> but is not fixed across the range.