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Modern Understandings of Inheritance

Introduction

OpenStaxCollege

Chromosomes are threadlike nuclear structures consisting of DNA and proteins that serve as the repositories for genetic information. The chromosomes depicted here were isolated from a fruit fly’s salivary gland, stained with dye, and visualized under a microscope. Akin to miniature bar codes, chromosomes absorb different dyes to produce characteristic banding patterns, which allows for their routine identification. (credit: modification of work by “LPLT”/Wikimedia Commons; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)


Electron micrograph shows a long, thin chromosome that has a banding pattern.

The gene is the physical unit of inheritance, and genes are arranged in a linear order on chromosomes. The behaviors and interactions of chromosomes during meiosis explain, at a cellular level, the patterns of inheritance that we observe in populations. Genetic disorders involving alterations in chromosome number or structure may have dramatic effects and can prevent a fertilized egg from developing altogether.

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