Genetics – biology

Posted: August 2, 2015 at 7:42 am



Homunculus in Sperm One question that has always intrigued us humans is Where did we come from? Long ago, Hippocrates and Aristotle proposed the idea of what they called pangenes, which they thought were tiny pieces of body parts. They thought that pangenes came together to make up the homunculus, a tiny pre-formed human that people thought grew into a baby. In the 1600s, the development of the microscope brought the discovery of eggs and sperm. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, using a primitive microscope, thought he saw the homunculus curled up in a sperm cell. His followers believed that the homunculus was in the sperm, the father planted his seed, and the mother just incubated and nourished the homunculus so it grew into a baby. On the other hand, Regnier de Graaf and his followers thought that they saw the homunculus in the egg, and the presence of semen just somehow stimulated its growth. In the 1800s, a very novel, radical idea arose: both parents contribute to the new baby, but people (even Darwin, as he proposed his theory) still believed that these contributions were in the form of pangenes.

Modern genetics traces its beginnings to Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, who grew peas in a monastery garden. Mendel was unique among biologists of his time because he sought quantifiable data, and actually counted the results of his crosses. He published his findings in 1865, but at that time, people didnt know about mitosis and meiosis, so his conclusions seemed unbelievable, and his work was ignored until it was rediscovered in 1900 by a couple of botanists who were doing research on something else. Peas are an ideal organism for this type of research because they are easy to grow and it is easy to control mating.

We will be looking at the sorts of genetic crosses Mendel did, but first, it is necessary to introduce some terminology:

Monohybrid Cross and Probabilities:

A monohybrid cross is a genetic cross where only one gene/trait is being studied. P stands for the parental generation, while F1 and F2 stand for the first filial generation (the children) and second filial generation (the grandchildren). Each parent can give one chromosome of each pair, therefore one allele for each trait, to the offspring. Thus, when figuring out what kind(s) of gametes an individual can produce, it is necessary to choose one of the two alleles for each gene (which presents no problem if they are the same).

Purple Pea Flower White Pea Flower For example, a true-breeding purple-flowered plant (the dominant allele for this gene) would have the genotype PP, and be able to make gametes with either P or P alleles. A true-breeding white-flowered plant (the recessive allele for this gene) would have the genotype pp, and be able to make gametes with either p or p alleles. Note that both of these parent plants would be homozygous. If one gamete from each of these parents got together to form a new plant, that plant would receive a P allele from one parent and a p allele from the other parent, thus all of the F1 generation will be genotype Pp, they will be heterozygous, and since purple is dominant, they will look purple. What if two individuals from the F1 generation are crossed with each other (PpPp)? Since gametes contain one allele for each gene under consideration, each of these individuals could contribute either a P or a p in his/her gametes. Each of these gametes from each parent could pair with each from the other, thus yielding a number of possible combinations for the offspring. We need a way, then, to predict what the possible offspring might be. Actually, there are two ways of doing this. The first is to do a Punnett square (named after Reginald Crandall Punnett). The possible eggs from the female are listed down the left side, and there is one row for each possible egg. The possible sperm from the male are listed across the top, and there is one column for each possible sperm. The boxes at the intersections of these rows and columns show the possible offspring resulting from that sperm fertilizing that egg. The Punnett square from this cross would look like this:

Note that the chance of having a gamete with a P allele is and the chance of a gamete with a p allele is , so the chance of an egg with P and a sperm with P getting together to form an offspring that is PP is =, just like the probabilities involved tossing coins. Thus, the possible offspring include: PP, ( Pp + pP, which are the same (Pp), since P is dominant over p), so = Pp, and pp.

Another way to calculate this is to use a branching, tree diagram:

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Genetics - biology

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