More Than Meets the Eye
The Genetics of Eye Color
Continuing Studies and Executive Education
The classic example of a human trait that behaves in a clear Mendelian fashion is human eye color. The gene that controls it exists in two forms: a dominant brown allele and a recessive blue allele. But the genetics of eye color is more complex than typically assumed. How are green or hazel eyes formed, for example? And how do blue-eyed couples give rise to brown-eyed offspring, as has been reported? This case explores the molecular basis of eye color using the story of a blue-eyed couple with a brown-eyed child to explore the possible scenarios that could result in this outcome, emphasizing the link between Mendelian genetics and the underlying molecular basis of the phenotype. The case was designed for second- or third-year biology majors with a background in molecular biology and genetics. In particular, students should have some background in Mendelian genetics and a good understanding of the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes.
- Link Mendelian genetics and phenotype with the underlying molecular biology.
- Explain the molecular basis of different eye colors.
- Create and interpret Punnett squares for a single gene trait.
- Create and interpret Punnett squares for two unlinked genes.
- Explain the appearance of novel phenotypes in offspring that are not present in the parents.
- Describe how biochemical pathways and genetic complementation can explain the appearance in offspring of novel phenotypes not present in the parents.
- Describe ways in which epigenetics can create phenotypes in children not present in the parents.
- Evaluate the likelihood of hypotheses based on evidence and real-world information.
KeywordsEye color; allele; dominant; recessive; phenotype; genotype; point mutation; Mendelian genetics; gene regulation; genetic complementation; biochemical pathway; epigenetics; eye pigmentation; melanin; Punnett square
Educational LevelUndergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDiscussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsGenetics / Heredity | Molecular Biology | Biology (General) |