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Understanding Autosomal Inheritance : How Traits Are Passed Down from Parents to Offspring

What is Autosomal Inheritance?

Autosomal inheritance is a type of inheritance in which a trait or gene is passed on from the parent to the offspring through the non-sex chromosomes. This affects the traits controlled by the genes located on the autosomes, a type of chromosome.

Understanding Autosomal Inheritance | How Traits Are Passed Down from Parents to Offspring

Chromosomes are thread-like structures inside the cell. They contain DNA that tells the body how to grow and function. There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in humans amongst which 1 pair determines a person’s sex.(1) 22 autosomes determine the aspects of development.

For a child to inherit a condition, both parents must carry autosomes that carry it. In some cases, a child can inherit a disease when only one parent carries autosomes.

The chances of inheriting a particular trait are equal for both sexes.

How Do People Inherit Trait?

Traits are inherited through the genes a person receives from their biological parents. During conception, sperm from one parent joins the egg or ovum of the other. Each of these contains a full set of chromosomes and genes. Each person inherits two copies of both. The chromosomes contain all the information that is needed to create another human.

A person inherits individual traits such as eye color, hair color, and height through the genes of parents.

The gene sometimes changes or mutates to produce a gene variant. Small changes sometimes do not produce any change. However, large changes can affect gene function and result in disease.

Inherited genes can influence a health condition. There is also a possibility for a gene to change in the uterus during fetal development. This can lead to a child suffering from a genetic condition even if there is no family history of it.

Also, there is a chance of inheriting the same gene variant and still not suffering from any symptoms. This is known as gene expression, in which the relationship between the environment and genetics influences whether the gene is switched on or off.

Autosomal inheritance is of two types:

  • Autosomal Dominant: A single copy of a gene variant would be enough to cause a condition. A child, therefore, has a 50% likelihood of inheriting a gene variant from the parent with a condition.(2)
  • Autosomal Recessive: In this, the child needs to inherit two copies of genes that cause a condition.

If both parents are the carriers of the autosomal recessive condition, the child would have a 25% chance of inheriting the condition.(3)

Additionally, there are other ways in which people can inherit disease:

  • X-linked Dominant: In this, the gene on the X chromosome dominates the expression of the trait
  • X-Linked Recessive: Here the gene on the X chromosome causes the expression of the trait if no dominant gene is present
  • X- linked: The conditions occur due to the X chromosome but they are not dominant or recessive
  • Y-linked: The condition results from variants in the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is present in males only, it can be passed from a male parent to a male child
  • Mitochondrial Inheritance: Genes from the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of the cell is passed on from the mother to the offspring
  • Codominant Inheritance: In these disorders, 2 gene variants can produce different effects and influence or determine a health condition.

Autosomal dominant conditions include:

  • Huntington’s Disease: It causes the progressive breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain.
  • Achondroplasia: It is a condition that affects the bone growth
  • Neurofibromatosis: It causes tumors formation in the nerve tissue
  • Familial Hypercholesterolemia: A person acquires high cholesterol by inheriting a gene from both the parents

Autosomal recessive conditions include:

  • Cystic Fibrosis: It causes mucus build-up in the lungs and digestive system
  • Sickle cell disease: It is a condition in which the shape of the red blood cell changes
  • Tay-Sachs disease: In this condition enzymes assisting the breakdown of fatty substances are absent
  • Phenylketonuria: This condition makes a person unable to metabolize phenylalanine, leading to brain and nerve damage.

Autosomal inheritance is a genetic route of passing traits from parents to the offspring in a dominant or recessive manner, depending on the specific gene involved. Both the sexes male and female have an equal chance of inheriting traits from their parents.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 16, 2023

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