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The inheritance of two characteristics

Dihybrid inheritanceis the inheritance of two characteristics, each controlled by a different gene at a different locus. In one experiment Mendel studied dihybrid inheritance by crossing plants from two pure-breeding strains: one tall with purple flowers, the other dwarf with white flowers. All the offspring in the F1 generation were tall with purple flowers, these being the dominant characteristics. The F1 generation were self-crossed, producing the following phenotypes and ratios in the F2 generation:

§ 9 tall purple-flowered

§ 3 tall white-flowered

§ 3 dwarf purple-flowered

§ 1 dwarf white-flowered.

Mendel observed that two phenotypes resembled one or other of the parents, and two phenotypes had combined the characteristics of both parents. He also observed that the ratio of tall plants to dwarf plants was 3:1, and that the ratio of purple-flowered plants to white-flowered plants was 3:1. This was the same ratio that occurred in the monohybrid crosses. He concluded from these results that the two pairs of characteristics behave quite independently of each other. This led him to formulate his law of independent assortment, which states that any one of a pair of characteristics may combine with any one of another pair.

Interpreting the results of a dihybrid cross

Mendel's results can be explained in terms of alleles and the behaviour of chromosomes during meiosis. Notice that the two alleles for one gene are always written together (for example, TtPp,not TPtp).This makes it easier to interpret the crosses. The pure-breeding adult plants, being diploid, have two alleles for each gene. The genes for height and flower colour are carried on separate chromosomes. During gamete formation, meiosis occurs, producing gametes containing one allele for each gene. In the F1 generation, the only possible genotype is TtPp.When these plants are self-crossed, there are four possible combinations of alleles in both the female and male gametes: TP, Tp, tP,and tp.Assuming fertilisation is random, any male gamete can fuse with any female gamete, so there are 16 possible combinations for the offspring, as shown in the Punnett square. These combinations can produce four different phenotypes from nine genotypes.

The only genotype that can be worked out simply by looking at the plants is that of the dwarf white-flowered plants. Genotypes of the other plants can be established by test crosses.


As already stated, two of the phenotypes in the F2 resemble the original parents (tall purple-flowered and short white-flowered), and two show new combinations of characteristics (tall white-flowered and dwarf purple-flowered). This process that results in new combinations of characteristics is called recombination,and the individuals that have the new combinations are known as recombinants.Recombination is an important source of genetic variation, contributing to the differences between individuals in a natural population.



Quick check:

1. What are recombinants?

2. Give a genetic explanation of Mendelian dihybrid inheritance.

3. Explain the significance of recombination.

4. Explain the use of test crosses to determine unknown genotypes in studies of dihybrid inheritance

5. Divide the text into an introduction, principal part and conclusion.

6. Express the main idea of each part.

7. Give a title to each paragraph of the text.

8. Summarize the text in brief.


■ Text 5. Sex Determination

One of the most fascinating marine animals is the slipper limpet, a mollusc with the intriguing scientific name of Crepidula fornicate. It was given this name because it has the surprising ability to change its sex. The limpets are immobile for most of their lives, growing in chains. The sex of each limpet depends on its size and its position in the chain. The young, small individuals are males, with long tapering penises which fertilise females lower in the chain. In due course, when a male has grown and has been settled on by another smaller limpet, the male loses its penis and grows into a female. Thus large females occur at the base of the chain, with animals changing sex above them, and males at the apex. In this way, the limpets have been able to combine immobility with internal fertilisation.

Sex chromosomes

There have been many weird and wonderful ideas about sex determination in humans. Some Ancient Greeks thought that the sex of a baby was determined by which testicle the sperm came from. Apparently, this belief was adopted by some European kings who tied off or removed their left testicle to ensure a male heir to the throne. Other people believed that the sex of a baby could be controlled by conceiving when the Moon was in a particular phase, when the wind was blowing in a certain direction, or whilst speaking certain words. We now know that human sex is determined by a pair of sex chromosomes called X and Y. Because these chromosomes do not look alike, they are sometimes called heterosomes. All other chromosomes are called autosomes.Females have two X chromosomes (XX). Males have one X and one Y chromosome (XY). Although the sex chromosomes determine the sex of an individual, it is important to realise that they do not carry all the genes responsible for the development of sexual characteristics.

During meiosis, the sex chromosomes pair up and segregate into the daughter cells. Males are called the heterogametic sex because they produce different sperm: approximately 50% contain an X chromosome and 50% have a Y chromosome. Females are called the homogametic sexbecause (usually) all of their eggs contain an X chromosome. This arrangement applies to all mammals and some insects (including Drosophila, the fruit fly commonly used in genetic experiments). However, in birds, moths, and butterflies, females are the heterogametic sex with the XY genotype (or XO, meaning the second sex chromosome may be absent). In some species, sex determination depends on a complex interaction between sex chromosomes and autosomes, or between inherited factors and environmental ones. The sex of some turtles, for example, depends on the temperature of the sand in which eggs are laid: those laid in sand warmed by the Sun develop into females; those laid in cool sand in the shade develop into males.

In humans, the father's sperm determines the sex of the baby: if a baby inherits a Y chromosome from its father it will be a boy; if it inherits an X chromosome from its father it will be a girl. So the sex of a baby depends on which sperm fertilises the egg cell: a sperm with an X chromosome or one with a Y chromosome. However, there are cases where having a Y chromosome does not necessarily mean that an embryo will become a boy.

The SRY gene

In the early stages of development, human embryos have no external genitalia. Whether they develop testes or ovaries depends on the presence and activity of a particular gene on the Y chromosome. This gene, called the sex related Y gene (SRY gene), was discovered in 1990 when geneticists were studying some interesting people: men who had two X chromosomes and women who had one X and one Y chromosome. Microscopical examination of the sex chromosomes of these people revealed that the XX males had a very small piece of Y chromosome in their X chromosomes, whereas this piece was missing from the Y chromosome of the XY females. The geneticists found the SRY gene within this small piece of Y chromosome.

The SRY gene codes for a protein called testis determining factor.This switches on other genes, causing the embryo to develop male structures. The testes develop and androgens (hormones which promote the development of male sexual organs and secondary sexual characteristics) are secreted. At about 16 weeks, an embryo with the SRY gene begins to produce immature sperm. In addition to stimulating male structures to grow, SRY suppresses the development of female structures by activating a gene on chromosome 19. This activation leads to the production of a protein called Mullerian- inhibiting substance, which destroys female structures early in their development. Lack of testis determining factor results in the development of female genital organs. Therefore, all embryos are female unless active testis determining factor makes them male.

Sex testing

The governing bodies of all-female sports sometimes use sex tests to make sure participants in their sports are female. The first attempts at gender verification were by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, whose sex test included parading naked female athletes before a panel of male doctors. In 1968 this rather dubious procedure was dropped, and the International Olympic Committee adopted the Barr test. This test uses the presence of stainable particles called Barr bodies as sex indicators. Barr bodies occur in epithelial cells in the mouth (buccal epithelial cells), and are thought to be derived from inactive X chromosomes. Females therefore usually have one Barr body in their buccal epithelial cells and males usually have none. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Barr test was replaced by the polymerase reaction test. In this test, the polymerase chain reaction. Sex testing is complicated by the fact that, on rare occasions, sex chromosomes fail to segregate at meiosis. This phenomenon, known as non-disjunction, can result in a sperm cell either having both an X and a Y chromosome or having no sex chromosome, and an egg cell either having two X chromosomes or having no sex chromosome. Non-disjunction can lead to unusual genotypes. Sex testing is confused even further by the occurrence of chimaeras. A chimaera is any animal or plant consisting of some cells with one genetic constitution and some with another. Very rarely, chimaera formation can occur during the early stages of embryonic development when chromosomes in mitotically dividing cells fail to segregate properly (for example, some cells can have the genotype XXX, others XO, while the majority are XX!).


Quick check:

1. Why are males called the heterogametic sex?

2. Explain why an embryo with an XY genotyper may develop female sexual organs.

3. Explain why a person may have buccal epithelial cells with two Barr bodies.

Discuss the role of the sex related Y gene in determining sex.

4. Describe how non-disjunction can affect the distribution of sex chromosomes in gametes and offspring.

5. Explain how sex is determined in humans.

6. Divide the text into an introduction, principal part and conclusion.

7. Express the main idea of each part.

8. Give a title to each paragraph of the text.

9. Summarize the text in brief.



■ Text 6. DNA Replication

DNA replication is a very complex process during which mistakes happen. Uncorrected mistakes may lead to harmful mutations. In the living cell, errors are kept to a very low frequency (about one in 109) by a number of repair mechanisms. One such mechanism is mismatchrepair.This is carried out by the enzyme DNA polymerase which 'proofreads' newly formed DNA against its template as soon as it is added to the strand. If it finds an incorrectly paired nucleotide, the polymerase reverses its direction of movement, removes the incorrect nucleotide, and replaces it before replication continues. The process is similar to correcting a typing error by going back a space, deleting the error, and typing in the correct letter before continuing.

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