Nine genes have been identified for the first time that are responsible for eyebrow colors by an international research team.
Eyebrow color is one of the most recognizable visual traits of the human body. It has a strong correlation with hair color, but scientists believe in the existence of overlapping and unique genetic components for both traits.
Previous studies on human eyes, hair, and skin color have identified multiple gene variants, but no findings for eyebrow color have been reported as of yet.
They found that eight genes, previously known pigmentation genes, could affect both eyebrow and hair color, such as gene variant MC1R, responsible for both blond eyebrows and red hair.
In addition, C10orf11 is the newly-identified gene that only affects eyebrow colors.
With these findings, researchers developed an eyebrow color prediction model and are ready to improve it by studying the different age distributions.
Such a DNA-based eyebrow color prediction model would improve the human phenotype research and be useful in future forensic applications, said lead author Liu Fan, researcher at the Beijing Institute of Genomics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"Based on the new discoveries, we can more accurately infer individual hair, eyes, skin, eyebrow color and other phenotypic information just from a DNA sample," Fan said in the paper published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Eyebrow color is controlled by genes that affect production of pigment. Melanin, for example, is a protective pigment that can block the ultraviolet radiation. Melanin-related gene abnormalities can lead to many diseases, such as albinism, and increase the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, an in-depth understanding of the pigmentation genes will help improve the treatment of these diseases, the researchers noted.