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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the relationship between genotypes and phenotypes in dominant and recessive gene systems
  • Use a Punnett square to calculate the expected proportions of genotypes and phenotypes in a monohybrid cross
  • Explain Mendel’s law of segregation and independent assortment in terms of genetics and the events of meiosis
  • Explain the purpose and methods of a test cross

The seven characteristics that Mendel evaluated in his pea plants were each expressed as one of two versions, or traits. Mendel deduced from his results that each individual had two discrete copies of the characteristic that are passed individually to offspring. We now call those two copies genes, which are carried on chromosomes. The reason we have two copies of each gene is that we inherit one from each parent. In fact, it is the chromosomes we inherit and the two copies of each gene are located on paired chromosomes. Recall that in meiosis these chromosomes are separated out into haploid gametes. This separation, or segregation, of the homologous chromosomes means also that only one of the copies of the gene gets moved into a gamete. The offspring are formed when that gamete unites with one from another parent and the two copies of each gene (and chromosome) are restored.

For cases in which a single gene controls a single characteristic, a diploid organism has two genetic copies that may or may not encode the same version of that characteristic. For example, one individual may carry a gene that determines white flower color and a gene that determines violet flower color. Gene variants that arise by mutation and exist at the same relative locations on homologous chromosomes are called alleles . Mendel examined the inheritance of genes with just two allele forms, but it is common to encounter more than two alleles for any given gene in a natural population.

Phenotypes and genotypes

Two alleles for a given gene in a diploid organism are expressed and interact to produce physical characteristics. The observable traits expressed by an organism are referred to as its phenotype    . An organism’s underlying genetic makeup, consisting of both the physically visible and the non-expressed alleles, is called its genotype    . Mendel’s hybridization experiments demonstrate the difference between phenotype and genotype. For example, the phenotypes that Mendel observed in his crosses between pea plants with differing traits are connected to the diploid genotypes of the plants in the P, F 1 , and F 2 generations. We will use a second trait that Mendel investigated, seed color, as an example. Seed color is governed by a single gene with two alleles. The yellow-seed allele is dominant and the green-seed allele is recessive. When true-breeding plants were cross-fertilized, in which one parent had yellow seeds and one had green seeds, all of the F 1 hybrid offspring had yellow seeds. That is, the hybrid offspring were phenotypically identical to the true-breeding parent with yellow seeds. However, we know that the allele donated by the parent with green seeds was not simply lost because it reappeared in some of the F 2 offspring ( [link] ). Therefore, the F 1 plants must have been genotypically different from the parent with yellow seeds.

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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