The Recessive Allele

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If one dominant allele and one recessive allele are present, the dominant allele trait will be expressed. But you might still be asking yourself why that is, which is totally OK. It actually comes down to the protein level of things.

This is especially true for eye color, whereby brown eyes are a dominant trait and blue eyes are a recessive trait. So, when one brown eye allele and one blue eye allele are present together, the individual will have brown eyes. In terms of proteins, that simply means the following: recessive alleles are the result of a loss of function in the protein.

Dominant Inheritance - Genetics Generation

This means that there is a mutation in the allele itself that stops the protein from being expressed. This loss of function could be caused by something as simple as the swapping of an important amino acid or it could be something as complicated as a mutation that stops the coding and subsequently the expression of the protein completely.

Now if you are completely thrown for a loop, think of it this way. Brown eyes are brown because of the pigment in them, namely melanin. The brown eye allele codes for the expression of the pigment, melanin.


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In the case of a loss of function of the brown eye allele, there is no pigment expression , which means that there is no pigment whatsoever and the result will be a blue eye. So, if you think about this in terms of dominant and recessive and everything we have covered so far, it makes sense that the dominant allele will be expressed even if just one is present.

This is because that allele causes the melanin to be made which is visible even if the other allele is recessive as that allele stops the melanin from being made. However, if there is no dominant allele and there are only two recessive ones present, there is now the complete loss of function of protein or complete lack of melanin creation, and the ultimate result is a blue eye. As if this alone was not complicated enough as it is, there are other types of dominance within alleles. There are things such as incomplete dominance when two traits that are inherited from the parents share dominance and that is manifested in the offspring.

This is best evident in certain plants that give mixed colored offspring whereby a red flower and a white flower create pink flowers. There is also mixed dominance, which is mostly seen in blood types, whereby a parent of blood type A and a parent of blood type B create offspring that have the AB blood type. So, while biology has a way of seeming complicated, things get very simple once the precise details are teased apart and all the pathways are clarified properly.

Education and debate across all ages would undoubtedly help, but how can we teach children these concepts?

Harry Potter and the recessive allele

We believe that successful lessons for younger children can be achieved using analogies of direct interest and relevance. Most children are familiar with J. They are set in a world like our own, but populated by a minority of people with supernatural powers wizards and witches and a majority of people without muggles. M Craig, R. Dow, M. This suggests that wizarding ability is inherited in a mendelian fashion, with the wizard allele W being recessive to the muggle allele M.

According to this hypothesis, all wizards and witches therefore have two copies of the wizard allele WW. Harry WW with WW parents is not considered a pure-blood, as his mother was muggle-born.


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  • At every stage, the children's familiarity with the Harry Potter characters can be used as a hook to engage them in discussing concepts of heredity and genetics. Reprints and Permissions. By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines.

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