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Chromosomal Theory of Inheritance

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Chromosomal Theory of Inheritance - Lesson Summary

Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, not only researched pea plants but also carried out several experiments with honey bees. Mendel had considered genes or factors as discrete and stable units responsible for controlling the expression of traits. He had also explained the concept of alleles and how they were responsible for the continuous variations observed in nature. Mendel’s work got due credence only  in nineteen hundred, when his results on the inheritance of characters were independently rediscovered by three scientists, Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak.
Two noted scientists of 1900 were Theodore Boveri and Walter Sutton. They used the movement of chromosomes to explain Mendel’s laws and noticed that the behaviour of chromosomes was similar to that of genes. Both chromosomes and genes occur in pairs and the alleles of a gene are located on homologous sites of homologous chromosomes, which are a pair of chromosomes with the same gene sequences, each being derived from one parent. Also, both chromosomes and genes segregate during the process of gamete formation and only one of each pair is passed on to a gamete. However, they differ in the way they segregate. In genes, independent pairs segregate independently of each other while in chromosomes, one pair segregates independently of another pair.
Sutton analysed segregation of chromosomes during meiosis and concluded that chromosomes have individuality and they occur in pairs, with members of each pair contributed by each parent. He also concluded that the paired chromosomes separate from each other during meiosis, and the distribution of the paternal and maternal chromosomes in each homologous pair is independent of each other. Both Sutton and Boveri were of the opinion that the pairing and separation of a pair of chromosomes would result in the segregation of a pair of genes or factors carried by them. Their hypothesis on chromosomal behaviour came to be known as the Boveri-Sutton Chromosome Theory. In fact, Sutton combined this hypothesis of chromosomal segregation and Mendelian principles and called it the Chromosomal Theory of Inheritance.


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