Mutations in SLC45A2 lead to loss of melanin in parrot feathers

Shatadru Ghosh Roy, Anna Bakhrat, Moty Abdu, Sandra Afonso, Paulo Pereira, Miguel Carneiro, Uri Abdu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bird plumage coloration is a complex and multifactorial process that involves both genetic and environmental factors. Diverse pigment groups contribute to plumage variation in different birds. In parrots, the predominant green color results from the combination of 2 different primary colors: yellow and blue. Psittacofulvin, a pigment uniquely found in parrots, is responsible for the yellow coloration, while blue is suggested to be the result of light scattering by feather nanostructures and melanin granules. So far, genetic control of melanin-mediated blue coloration has been elusive. In this study, we demonstrated that feather from the yellow mutant rose-ringed parakeet displays loss of melanosome granules in spongy layer of feather barb. Using whole genome sequencing, we found that mutation in SLC45A2, an important solute carrier protein in melanin synthetic pathway, is responsible for the sex-linked yellow phenotype in rose-ringed parakeet. Intriguingly, one of the mutations, P53L found in yellow Psittacula krameri is already reported as P58A/S in the human albinism database, known to be associated with human OCA4. We further showed that mutations in SLC45A2 gene affect melanin production also in other members of Psittaculidae family such as alexandrine and plum-headed parakeets. Additionally, we demonstrate that the mutations associated with the sex-linked yellow phenotype, localized within the transmembrane domains of the SLC45A2 protein, affect the protein localization pattern. This is the first evidence of plumage color variation involving SLC45A2 in parrots and confirmation of associated mutations in the transmembrane domains of the protein that affects its localization.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberjkad254
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • SLC45A2
  • feather
  • melanin
  • parrot

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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