OMIA 000213-74535 : Coat colour, white in Panthera tigris tigris

In other species: domestic cat , water buffalo

Mendelian trait/disorder: yes

Mode of inheritance: Autosomal Recessive

Considered a defect: no

Key variant known: yes

Year key variant first reported: 2013

Species-specific description: As noted by Xu et al. (2013), "The white tiger is not a true albino, in that although pheomelanin is largely absent, eumelanin is present in the eyes and in the hairs of stripes".

History: As reported by Xu et al. (2013) white Bengal tigers "were once observed sporadically in the wild on the Indian subcontinent, with the oldest record dating back to the 1500s [Jackson, 1988]. In 1951, a male white tiger named Mohan was captured in Rewa, now part of Madhya Pradesh in India, from which numerous white tigers were bred for captivity [ Robinson, 1969; Robinson, 1976; Thornton, 1978; Thornton et al., 1967; Maruska, 1987]."

Inheritance: Autosomal recessive inheritance was documented by Thornton et al. (1967).

Mapping: Having shown no association between the white phenotype of Bengal tigers and polymorphisms in any of the obvious candidate coat-colour genes, Xu et al. (2013) undertook a herculean effort that is very much a sign of the times, namely whole-genome sequencing three Bengal tigers (which are parents in a captive-bred family), and, from the sequence data, identifying 509,220 SNPs, each of which was aligned to the tiger reference genome. They then performed a GWAS on 7 white and 9 wild-type tigers (from the same captive-bred family), each genotyped with the identified SNPs, yielding 172,554 informative SNPs. The GWAS mapped the white locus to two adjacent scaffolds (75 and 1458). Linkage mapping within these two scaffolds highlighted a 3.3Mb candidate region, which (according to the tiger reference genome) contains 23 genes.

Molecular basis: Careful examination of the whole-genomes sequence data from the three parents of the captive-bred family segregating for the white phenotype, combined with "restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq)" of the 13 offspring in the same family, enabled Xu et al. (2013) to identify a candidate mutation in each of two genes in the candidate region (see Mapping section). Genotyping of other Bengal tigers (20 white and 110 wild-type) for both mutations revealed the causal mutation to be a missense mutation, namely a "C-to-T transition in exon 7 in SLC45A2 (solute carrier family 45 member 2, also known as MATP or AIM-1), which corresponds to alanine-to-valine substitution at amino acid residue 477 (A477V)".

Associated gene:

Symbol Description Species Chr Location OMIA gene details page Other Links
SLC45A2 Panthera tigris tigris - no genomic information (-..-) SLC45A2 Ensembl


By default, variants are sorted chronologically by year of publication, to provide a historical perspective. Readers can re-sort on any column by clicking on the column header. Click it again to sort in a descending order. To create a multiple-field sort, hold down Shift while clicking on the second, third etc relevant column headers.

WARNING! Inclusion of a variant in this table does not automatically mean that it should be used for DNA testing. Anyone contemplating the use of any of these variants for DNA testing should examine critically the relevant evidence (especially in breeds other than the breed in which the variant was first described). If it is decided to proceed, the location and orientation of the variant sequence should be checked very carefully.

Breed(s) Variant Phenotype Gene Allele Type of Variant Reference Sequence Chr. g. or m. c. or n. p. Verbal Description EVA ID Year Published PubMed ID(s) Acknowledgements
Coat colour, white SLC45A2 missense C>T p.A477V 2013 23707431


Note: the references are listed in reverse chronological order (from the most recent year to the earliest year), and alphabetically by first author within a year.
2014 Xu, X., Luo, S.J. :
How the white tiger lost its color, but kept its stripes. Sci China Life Sci 57:1041-3, 2014. Pubmed reference: 25323677. DOI: 10.1007/s11427-014-4697-z.
2013 Xu, X., Dong, G.X., Hu, X.S., Miao, L., Zhang, X.L., Zhang, D.L., Yang, H.D., Zhang, T.Y., Zou, Z.T., Zhang, T.T., Zhuang, Y., Bhak, J., Cho, Y.S., Dai, W.T., Jiang, T.J., Xie, C., Li, R., Luo, S.J. :
The genetic basis of white tigers. Curr Biol 23:1031-5, 2013. Pubmed reference: 23707431. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.054.
1988 Jackson, P. :
Earliest record of a white tiger. Cat News 8:6-7, 1988.
1987 Maruska, E.J. :
White tiger: Phantom or freak? In R.L. Tilson, U.S. Seal (Eds.), Tigers of the World: The Biology, Biopolitics, Management, and Conservation of an Endangered Species (First Edition), Noyes Publications, Park Ridge :372-379, 1987.
1978 Thornton, I.W.B. :
White tiger genetics—further evidence. Journal of Zoology 185:389-394, 1978.
1977 Sankhala, K. :
Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger. Simon & Schuster, New York :, 1977.
1976 Robinson, R. :
Homologous genetic variation in the Felidae. Genetica 46:1-31, 1976.
1973 Guillery, RW., Kaas, JH. :
Genetic abnormality of the visual pathways in a "white" tiger. Science 180:1287-9, 1973. Pubmed reference: 4707916.
1969 Robinson, R. :
The white tigers of Rewa and gene homology in the Felidae. Genetica 40:198-200, 1969. Pubmed reference: 5806538.
1967 Thornton, I.W.B., Yeung, K.K., Sankhala, K.S. :
The genetics of the white tigers of Rewa Journal of Zoology 152:127-135, 1967.

Edit History

  • Created by Frank Nicholas on 08 Jun 2013
  • Changed by Frank Nicholas on 08 Jun 2013