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Science

Inheritance

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Alleles are different forms of a gene. They can be dominant or recessive. Genetic diagrams help us to understand the possible outcomes when parents produce offspring. Huntington’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that is caused by a dominant allele. Cystic fibrosis is a disorder of the cell membranes caused by a recessive allele.

Alleles

Some characteristics, such as eye colour and the shape of the earlobe, are controlled by a single gene. These genes may have different forms.

Different forms of the same gene are called alleleallele: One form of a gene.s (pronounced al-eels). The gene for eye colour has an allele for blue eye colour and an allele for brown eye colour.

Alleles are dominantdominant: An allele that always expresses itself whether it is partnered by a recessive allele or by another like itself or recessiverecessive: Describes the variant of a gene for a particular characteristic which is masked or suppressed in the presence of the dominant variant. A recessive gene will remain dormant unless it is paired with another recessive gene:

  • the characteristic controlled by a dominant allele develops if the allele is present on one or both chromosomes in a pair
  • the characteristic controlled by a recessive allele develops only if the allele is present on both chromosomes in a pair

For example, the allele for brown eyes is dominant, while the allele for blue eyes is recessive. An individual who inherits one or two alleles for brown eyes will have brown eyes. An individual will only have blue eyes if they inherit two copies of the allele for blue eyes.

individual A is heterozygous and has one allele for blue eyes (recessive). B is homozygous and has two alleles for brown eyes (dominant). C is homozygous recessive and has two alleles for blue eyes (recessive)

Individuals A and B have brown eyes - only individual C has blue eyes

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Back to Cell division and inheritance index

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