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My child with the recessive genes!

  1. Apr 22, 2010 #1

    Kerrie

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    Biology is a science I know absolutely nothing about!

    My 4 year old has super light blond hair, fair skin and crystal blue eyes. Her father has dark brown hair, and greenish-brown eyes, and I have brown hair/eyes.

    How does this recessive gene work? My husband swears she wasn't switched after I gave birth! Layman's terms please, I don't speak biologese :blushing:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2010 #2
    A recessive allele typically needs two copies in order to be expressed. My guess is that both you and your husband possess a recessive blue eyed allele that was phenotypically suppressed (not visible) due to a more dominant brown eyed allele. I would think your daughter possesses two copies of the recessive blue eye allele which is expressed without a more dominant allele to overpower it. With that being said, hair and eyes are polygenetic traits that are difficult to pinpoint exactly in terms of recessive and dominant genes.
     
  4. Apr 23, 2010 #3

    Ygggdrasil

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    Ok, well let's start with one basic fact: you have two copies of every gene in your body. One copy you inherit from your mother and one copy you inherit from your father. Why do we need two copies of each gene? Well, one reason is redundancy. If one copy happens to be bad, the other can function just as well (see example below).

    Now, how does this relate to hair color? Well, let's take a simple example to show how recessive traits work. Let's say a single gene that determines hair color. One version of this gene, lets call it B, gives your body the ability to produce the pigment that colors your hair brown. Let's also say that there's a defective version of this gene, b. Now, because everyone has two copies of the hair color gene, there are three possible sittuations. 1) A person can have two working copies of B (BB). In this case, the person will have brown hair because the genes will let this person produce the brown hair color pigment. 2) A person can have one working copy of the gene and one defective copy (Bb). Although one copy is defective, the working copy of the hair color gene is sufficient to produce enough of the pigment to color the person's hair brown. (it would seem to make sense that a Bb person would have a lighter shade of brown hair than a BB individual, but with genes this is often not the case. Most of the time, your body has self-control mechanisms that limit the actions of genes so that extra copies of the gene do not cause problems. As an analogy, consider that your car's speedometer may go up to 200mph but laws [and your sanity] make it so that most of the time you drive well below the maximum possible speed of your car). 3) A person has two defective copies of the gene (bb). Now, because neither copy of the gene can produce the brown pigment, the person has unpigmented, blond hair. Because a person who has at least one copy of the B version has brown hair, we call this type of gene version "dominant": it is strong enough that one copy is sufficient for its trait to show. Similarly, we call the b version "recessive", because the action of the b gene is hidden unless an individual has two copies of the gene.

    Now let's say you and your husband both fall into case 2 (Bb). In this case, you would both have brown hair. Now, remember that I said each person inherits one version of each gene from their father and one version of each gene from their mother. So, your daughter will have one of your hair color genes and one of your husband's hair color genes. If your daughter were to inherit your b gene and your husband's b gene, she would fall in to the bb (blond hair) category despite both her parents having brown hair. So, yes, you don't have to worry that the hospital switched your baby with someone else's.

    I should mention that while this example explains the concept and is true for many genetic traits, I'm not sure if this is what actually happens with hair color. But, I hope it at least explains the principle well.
     
  5. Apr 23, 2010 #4

    Kerrie

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    Fabulous explanation Ygggdrasil, and I understand it! As for our parents, moms and 1 dad all had the brown/brown complexion with the exception of my dad-blond and green eyes. Maybe he's the culprit.
     
  6. Apr 23, 2010 #5

    Ygggdrasil

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    Yes. Since your dad had blond hair, you almost certainly have one copy of the blond gene (since that's the only type of gene you could inherit from your father). However, he's not the sole culprit. Since blond hair is recessive, your daughter would have also had to inherit a blond gene from her father's side as well.
     
  7. Apr 23, 2010 #6
    Many people with brown hair start off life with blondish hair which darkens up anyways.
     
  8. Apr 23, 2010 #7

    Kerrie

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    So in that case, would that person still have the bb genes as Ygggdrasil was discussing?
     
  9. Apr 25, 2010 #8

    Monique

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    The genetics of hair color is not yet completely understood, there is probably a multitude of genes involved. The change of hair color when you grow from a child into an adult is thought to be caused by methylation of the genes. Methylation causes a gene to be turned off. But again, this is still an hypothesis.
     
  10. Apr 25, 2010 #9
    Exactly what I was trying to get at.
     
  11. Apr 25, 2010 #10

    turbo

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    I have a cousin born to a dark-haired uncle and a dark-haired aunt (French-Canadian and Indian), and she is blond, but not too fair-skinned - she tans easily. A number of years ago, I found a picture of my uncle as a young boy, and he was just as blond, and had the same facial features. He and his daughter looked like twins in B&W pictures.
     
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