The Genetic Overlap Between Hair and Eye Color

B. Lin, G. Willemsen, A. Abdellaoui, M. Bartels, E.A. Ehli, G.E. Davies, D.I. Boomsma, J.J. Hottenga

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We identified the genetic variants for eye color by Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) in a Dutch Caucasian family-based population sample and examined the genetic correlation between hair and eye color using data from unrelated participants from the Netherlands Twin Register. With the Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis software package, we found strong genetic correlations between various combinations of hair and eye colors. The strongest positive correlations were found for blue eyes with blond hair (0.87) and brown eyes with dark hair (0.71), whereas blue eyes with dark hair and brown eyes with blond hair showed the strongest negative correlations (-0.64 and -0.94, respectively). Red hair with green/hazel eyes showed the weakest correlation (-0.14). All analyses were corrected for age and sex, and we explored the effects of correcting for principal components (PCs) that represent ancestry and describe the genetic stratification of the Netherlands. When including the first three PCs as covariates, the genetic correlations between the phenotypes disappeared. This is not unexpected since hair and eye colors strongly indicate the ancestry of an individual. This makes it difficult to separate the effects of population stratification and the true genetic effects of variants on these particular phenotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-599
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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