Mendel’s Law of Segregation- First law of Inheritance

Mendel’s Law of Segregation- First law of Inheritance

Mendel’s Law of Segregation- First law of Inheritance

1. Mendel’s Experiment

Mendel initiated his research with an array of 34 unique types of peas (Pisum sativum L.). Over the course of two successive years, he cultivated these distinct varieties in individual plots for two main objectives. Firstly, he aimed to verify their purity, addressing concerns related to mechanical mixtures and heterozygosity. Secondly, he sought to gauge the constancy of their traits, specifically examining how external factors influenced the manifestation of these traits. Subsequently, he handpicked 22 varieties from this assortment for crossbreeding, each exhibiting variations in one or more characteristics in comparison to the others.

In Mendel’s Study, a “character” refers to a specific trait or feature that can be seen in an organism. For example, when we look at a pea plant, characters can include things like the shape of its seeds or the color of its cotyledons. In his study, Gregor Mendel chose to focus on seven particular characters found in pea plants. What’s interesting is that each of these characters had two distinct forms, sort of like having two options for each trait. For example, when looking at seed shape, the options were either round or wrinkled. Similarly, when looking at cotyledon color, the options were either yellow or green. These pairs of traits that are different from each other are called “contrasting characters.” (Table below), or allele.

Table: Seven pair of contrasting characters in Pea plants selected by Mendel

Table: Seven pair of contrasting characters in Pea plants selected by Mendel

Mendel embarked on his investigations by engaging varieties that showcased differences in a single set of opposing traits. These dissimilar varieties, employed in a hybridization initiative, are classified as parent plants. Hybridization involves the strategic transfer of active pollen grains from the blossoms of one parent (referred to as the male parent) to the stigma of emasculated blooms from another parent (termed the female parent). Emasculation denotes the deliberate elimination or incapacitation of all premature anthers within a flower, effectively preventing self-pollination. Intriguingly, Mendel conducted an intriguing set of reciprocal crosses where one parent (Parent A) initially served as the female component in a cross with a different parent (Parent B), and subsequently, as the male participant in another cross with the same parent (Parent B). This reciprocal crossing method led to a profound understanding of inheritance. Additionally, when parents each differing in a solitary trait participated in a mating event, it was labeled as a monohybrid cross. Likewise, pairings involving parents dissimilar in two or three traits were termed dihybrid and trihybrid crosses, correspondingly.

The offspring generated through this hybridization process are referred to as the hybrid generation or F₁ generation, where F₁ signifies “first filial” or progeny generation. When self-pollination transpires within the F₁ generation (or in certain animals and dioecious plants, through intermating among F₁ individuals), the subsequent outcome is the F₂ generation. This sequential self-pollination process extends to yield F₃, F₄, and so forth.

1.1. Exploring Pea Seed Shape Inheritance

Within one of his experimental quests, Mendel orchestrated a cross between a pea variety boasting round seeds and another featuring wrinkled seeds. Following this hybridization, the resultant seeds of the F₁ generation were uniformly round. Upon further examination, the F₂ generation, comprising seeds obtained through self-pollination of F₁ plants, manifested two distinct types. Statistically, approximately 3 out of every 4 seeds exhibited round shapes, while the remaining 1 out of 4 seeds showcased the wrinkled characteristic. Motivated by these outcomes, Mendel conducted a thorough analysis. He permitted the F₁ plants to self-pollinate and meticulously evaluated the seed shapes produced by each F₁ plant. This meticulous comparison revealed intriguing insights.

Reciprocal cross between round and wrinkled seeds of Pea

Figure: Reciprocal cross between round and wrinkled seeds of Pea

Interestingly, he observed that offspring derived from the wrinkled F₁ seeds exclusively yielded wrinkled F₂ seeds. On the other hand, F₁ plants stemming from round F₁ seeds yielded two distinct categories of F₂ plants. On average, one-third of these plants exclusively generated round F₂ seeds, whereas two-thirds produced a mix of both round and wrinkled F₂ seeds, following a 3:1 ratio. Additionally, Mendel noticed that outcomes from reciprocal crosses were remarkably consistent, leading him to consolidate data from these reciprocal mating events. The outcomes from monohybrid crosses involving six other traits aligned harmoniously with those observed for seed shape.

From these intricate observations, several enlightening conclusions can be deduced:

  • Both male and female parent contributions exhibit equal influence on the offspring’s trait development, as affirmed by the matching results from reciprocal crosses.

  • In the F₁ generation, only one of the two parental traits surfaces—this is termed the dominant trait. In contrast, the other parental trait remains dormant, earning the label of recessive.

  • As for the F₁ generation, the traits of both parents—both dominant and recessive—emerge in a precise 3:1 proportion.

  • The recessive trait surfaces in the F₂ generation in an unaltered form identical to that of the contributing parent. Notably, the recessive trait remains unaltered in the F₂ generation; only its expression is restrained.

  • Dominant traits exhibit two possible forms: they can be pure, akin to the parent’s trait, leading to progeny expressing the dominant trait exclusively. Alternatively, they can be hybrid, similar to the F₁ hybrid, resulting in 3/4 of the progeny bearing the dominant trait and the remaining 1/4 exhibiting the recessive trait.

  • Within the F₁ generation, 1/3 of individuals boasting the dominant trait are pure, while the remaining 2/3 embody a hybrid status.

2.0. What is an Allele?

An allele is a variant form of a gene that occupies a specific location on a chromosome. Each allele represents a different version of the same gene and contributes to the diversity of traits within a population. Alleles can give rise to different expressions of a trait, leading to variations in an organism’s characteristics.

For instance, in Mendel’s study of pea plant characters, he focused on the seed shape trait, which had two contrasting forms: round seeds (symbolized as “R”) and wrinkled seeds (symbolized as “r”). In this case, “R” and “r” are alleles of the gene responsible for determining seed shape.

When Mendel crossed a pea variety with round seeds (“RR” genotype) with another variety having wrinkled seeds (“rr” genotype), he found that all the hybrid offspring in the first generation (F1) had round seeds. However, when he allowed the F1 plants to self-pollinate and examined the seeds of the second generation (F2), he observed a specific pattern:

  • In the F2 generation, he observed that the round seed trait appeared in approximately three-fourths of the plants, while the wrinkled seed trait appeared in about one-fourth of the plants.

  • This outcome could be explained by the presence of two alleles, “R” and “r.” Since “R” is dominant over “r,” plants with at least one “R” allele (heterozygous “Rr” or homozygous “RR”) displayed the round seed trait.

  • The plants displaying the round seed trait (Rr or RR) were termed carriers of the recessive allele “r.” This allele was masked in their phenotype but could be passed on to their offspring.

In this example, “R” and “r” are the two alleles that determine the seed shape trait in pea plants. The presence of multiple alleles for a gene within a population contributes to the range of traits observed and inherited.

2.1. What is a Dominant Allele?

A dominant trait is a genetic characteristic that takes precedence over another trait when present in an individual’s genetic makeup. In the presence of a dominant allele (gene variant), the corresponding trait will be visibly expressed, masking the effect of any recessive allele that may also be present. Dominant traits tend to exert their influence even if only one copy of the dominant allele is inherited from either parent.

2.2. What is a Recessive Allele? 

A recessive trait, on the other hand, is a genetic characteristic that remains hidden or unexpressed when a dominant allele is also present. To manifest a recessive trait, an individual must inherit two copies of the recessive allele, one from each parent. In cases where only one recessive allele is inherited, the dominant allele’s effect will prevail, masking the recessive trait.

Table: Difference Between Dominant Allele and Recessive Allele

AspectDominant AlleleRecessive Allele
DefinitionAn allele that is expressed in the phenotype when present in either homozygous (two copies) or heterozygous (one copy) condition.An allele that is expressed in the phenotype only when present in a homozygous (two copies) condition.
SymbolRepresented by an uppercase letter (e.g., “A”).Represented by a lowercase letter (e.g., “a”).
Expression in PhenotypeMasks the expression of the recessive allele.Only expressed if the individual is homozygous recessive (two copies of the recessive allele).
Genetic RepresentationCan be present in both homozygous (AA) and heterozygous (Aa) genotypes.Present only in homozygous recessive (aa) genotype.
Inheritance PatternWhen present, the dominant allele’s trait is observed in the phenotype.Recessive trait is observed in the phenotype only when both alleles are recessive.
ExampleIn Mendel’s pea experiment, “R” allele for round seed shape is dominant over “r” allele for wrinkled seed shape.In Mendel’s pea experiment, “r” allele for wrinkled seed shape is recessive to “R” allele for round seed shape.

2.3. Difference Between Gene and Allele

In the field of genetics, understanding the concepts of genes and alleles is paramount to unraveling the complexities of inheritance and variation. Genes, the fundamental units of heredity, are segments of DNA that contain the instructions for specific traits or characteristics. In contrast, alleles are the diverse versions of a gene that dictate the variations seen in those traits. To shed light on these essential genetic components, let’s delve into the distinctions between genes and alleles through a comparative table.

Table: Difference Between Gene and Allele

DefinitionA segment of DNA that codes for a specific trait or characteristic.One of the alternative forms of a gene, occupying a specific location on a chromosome.
FunctionCarries the genetic information necessary for the development of a particular trait.Determines a specific version or variant of a trait associated with the gene.
PresenceOrganisms have many genes, each contributing to various traits.Each gene typically has two alleles, one inherited from each parent.
Homologous PairGenes are found in homologous pairs, with one on each of the paired chromosomes.Alleles occur on corresponding positions of homologous chromosomes in the gene pair.
VariationDifferent alleles of a gene can result in variations of a trait (e.g., different eye colors).Different alleles may lead to variations in the expression of a trait (e.g., blue or brown eyes).
DominanceGenes themselves do not exhibit dominance or recessiveness.Alleles can be dominant or recessive, influencing the phenotype expressed.
RelationshipMultiple genes contribute to a complex trait, and they interact with each other.Alleles within the same gene determine variations of a single trait.
ExampleThe gene responsible for eye color has alleles for blue, brown, green, etc.A gene for flower color may have alleles for red, white, or pink flowers.
InheritanceGenes are inherited from both parents, contributing to an individual’s genetic makeup.One allele is inherited from the mother, and the other is inherited from the father.
Genetic LocusA gene occupies a specific location on a chromosome called a genetic locus.Alleles are found at the same genetic locus on homologous chromosomes.

3. Mendel’s Law of Segregation: The First Law of Inheritance

The Law of Segregation, a cornerstone of classical genetics, elucidates the behaviour of alleles during inheritance. This fundamental principle, proposed by Gregor Mendel, provides a key framework for understanding how alleles segregate during gamete formation.  Thus, the law of segregation states that when a pair of contrasting factors or genes or allelomorphs are brought together in a heterozygote (hybrid) the two members of the allelic pair remain together without being contaminated and when gametes are formed from the hybrid, the two separate out from each other and only one enters each gamete. 

This law delineates the mechanism through which alleles, alternative forms of a gene, segregate during gamete formation, ensuring genetic diversity in subsequent generations.

3.1. Allelic Dynamics and Flower Colour Variation

Consider a plant species exhibiting flower colour variability, where the red flower colour is governed by the dominant allele (R) and the white flower colour is governed by the recessive allele (r).

Mendel’s investigations into this phenomenon allowed him to unravel the intricate behaviour of alleles and their transmission.

3.2. Mendel’s Experiment for the Law of Segregation

Mendel’s rigorous experiments involved controlled crosses between pure lines of red and white flower plants, leading to the establishment of the F1 and F2 generations. The F1 generation consistently exhibited red flowers, a testament to the dominance of the red allele over the white allele. The subsequent self-fertilization of the F1 plants gave rise to the F2 generation, showcasing a remarkable 3:1 phenotypic ratio of red to white flowers.

Monohybrid cross for flower colour, involving cross of two different homozygous parents as P-generation

Figure: Monohybrid cross for flower colour, involving cross of two different homozygous parents as P-generation: In the F1-generation all plants have the same heterozygous genotype and the dominant flower colour in the phenotype. The F2 again regains the recessive and show a phenotypic ratio of 3:1 (Image source: Sciencia58, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

3.2.1. Interpreting the 3:1 Ratio:

The 3:1 phenotypic ratio observed in the F2 generation is a direct consequence of the Law of Segregation. The two alleles for flower color segregate during gamete formation, with each gamete carrying only one allele. As a result, the random fusion of these gametes restores the 3:1 ratio, where three individuals possess the dominant red allele and one individual bears the recessive white allele.

3.2.2. Terms and Concepts:

Understanding the Law of Segregation involves grasping key genetic terminologies:

Genotype: The combination of alleles an individual possesses (e.g., RR, Rr, rr).

Phenotype: The observable trait resulting from the genotype (e.g., red or white flowers).

Homozygous: Possessing identical alleles for a given gene (e.g., RR or rr).

Heterozygous: Possessing two different alleles for a given gene (e.g., Rr).

3.3.3. Implications and Significance:

Mendel’s elucidation of the Law of Segregation laid the foundation for modern genetics. This principle offers insights into the transmission of hereditary traits and underscores the importance of allele diversity in the survival and adaptation of species. The concept of alleles segregating independently during gamete formation laid the groundwork for subsequent genetic discoveries, including the Law of Independent Assortment.

3.4. Why Mendel’s Law of Segregation Called as Law of Purity of Gametes?

Mendel’s Law of Segregation, often referred to as the “purity law of gametes,” is a cornerstone in genetics, shedding light on the distinctiveness of gametes in carrying either a dominant or a recessive allele, but not both concurrently. This principle highlights the precise nature of gametic transmission, emphasizing their pure state.

Mendel’s first law, the Law of Segregation, elucidates that alleles, which are alternate forms of a gene, exhibit distinct behaviors during the process of meiosis. The essential tenets of this law can be articulated as follows:

  1. Multiple Alleles: Genes can possess various allelic variations.
  2. Allelic Segregation: When gametes are formed during meiosis, the pairs of alleles segregate or separate.
  3. Dominance and Recessiveness: For the determination of a genetic trait, such as eye color, one allele can be recessive, and the other dominant.

Crucially, these alleles remain undisturbed by each other, maintaining their purity without blending. This intrinsic property of allele segregation has earned the law its moniker as the “law of purity of gametes.” This purity is ensured during the formation of gametes as the segregation of alleles parallels the segregation of homologous chromosomes in meiosis. The separation of tetrads during anaphase I and the subsequent division of sister chromatids in anaphase II contribute to this process.

Gametes, the cells responsible for fertilization, encapsulate this principle. In humans, the egg and sperm represent female and male gametes respectively. Human eggs carry a single X chromosome, while sperm harbor either an X or Y chromosome, determining the offspring’s sex. Following the law of segregation, a gamete is designated one of the two alleles for any given trait, be it dominant or recessive.

3.5. Where does the Law of Segregation Occur in Meiosis?

The Law of Segregation, is intimately linked to the process of meiosis. Meiosis is the specialized cell division that produces gametes (sperm and egg cells) with half the usual number of chromosomes, ensuring genetic diversity in offspring. The Law of Segregation manifests itself during two critical stages of meiosis: anaphase I and anaphase II.

Anaphase I: During anaphase I of meiosis, homologous chromosomes, which are chromosome pairs derived from each parent, separate and migrate to opposite poles of the cell. This separation ensures that each resulting daughter cell contains only one chromosome from each homologous pair. This process adheres to the principle of Mendel’s Law of Segregation, as it entails the segregation of different alleles located on these homologous chromosomes. This separation lays the foundation for genetic diversity, as the resulting gametes will carry distinct combinations of alleles.

Anaphase II: Anaphase II, the subsequent stage of meiosis, witnesses the separation of sister chromatids within each daughter cell formed during anaphase I. Sister chromatids are identical copies of a chromosome resulting from DNA replication in the preceding stages. The segregation of sister chromatids during anaphase II further adheres to Mendel’s Law of Segregation, ensuring that each gamete receives only one of the two alleles present on each chromatid. This segregation contributes to the gametes’ genetic diversity and distinct allele combinations.

In summary, Mendel’s Law of Segregation is mirrored in the meiotic processes of anaphase I and anaphase II, where homologous chromosomes and sister chromatids separate, respectively. These events ensure that each gamete carries only one allele for a specific gene, contributing to the genetic variability observed in offspring.

3.6. Why is the Law of Segregation Universally Accepted?

The reason why the Law of Segregation is universally agreed upon in genetics is that it works without any exceptions, unlike the other genetic laws. It says that each gene has two different versions called alleles, and when gametes are made, these alleles separate. When fertilization happens, one allele from each parent comes together. This law is consistent and applies without any special cases.

3.7. The Test Cross Unveiled

The test cross is a technique employed by geneticists to discern the genotype of an organism that displays a dominant phenotype. This approach involves crossing the individual in question with a known homozygous recessive individual. By observing the traits displayed in the offspring, geneticists can deduce whether the dominant phenotype-bearing individual is homozygous dominant or heterozygous.

3.7.1. Seed Color in Plants: An Illustrative Example of Test Cross

Consider a scenario involving seed color in plants, where yellow seeds are dominant and green seeds are recessive. Let’s say we have a plant with yellow seeds, but we are uncertain whether it is homozygous dominant (YY) or heterozygous (Yy).

To unravel this mystery, we perform a test cross. We cross the plant with unknown genotype (Y_ – either YY or Yy) with a plant that has green seeds (yy). This plant with green seeds is a homozygous recessive individual, and its genotype is known.

An illustration of the test cross

Figure: An illustration of the test cross (Image Source: CNX OpenStax, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

3.7.2. Possible Outcomes and Interpretation of Test Cross

When the test cross occurs, the resulting offspring can provide valuable insights into the genotype of the dominant-seed plant.

If all the offspring have yellow seeds (Y_), it suggests that the dominant-seed plant is homozygous dominant (YY). In this case, all the offspring inherit a dominant allele from the parent, resulting in the expression of the dominant phenotype.

If the offspring exhibit a 1:1 ratio of yellow to green seeds, it indicates that the dominant-seed plant is heterozygous (Yy). Each offspring has a 50% chance of inheriting the dominant allele and a 50% chance of inheriting the recessive allele, resulting in the observed phenotypic ratio.

3.7.3. Significance and Applications of Test Cross

The test cross holds immense importance in genetics, as it aids in determining the genetic composition of individuals with dominant traits. This knowledge is crucial for various applications, such as plant breeding, animal husbandry, and medical genetics.

In plant breeding, for instance, breeders can use test crosses to identify the genetic makeup of plants exhibiting desirable traits. This information helps them select the best plants for further breeding and ensures the preservation of the desired traits in subsequent generations.

3.7.4. Test Cross- Conclusion

The test cross is a powerful tool in genetics that allows scientists to uncover hidden genetic information by analyzing the phenotypic ratios of offspring. By crossing an individual with a dominant trait with a homozygous recessive individual, researchers can ascertain whether the dominant individual is homozygous dominant or heterozygous. This method not only deepens our understanding of genetic inheritance but also has practical applications in various fields, contributing to advancements in science and agriculture.

4.0 Important Questions/ FAQ’s on Mendel’s Law of Segregation

What is Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

Mendel’s Law of Segregation states that during the formation of gametes, the alleles for a trait segregate or separate from each other into different gametes, and each gamete receives only one allele for that trait.

What observable cellular process explains Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

The observable cellular process that explains Mendel’s Law of Segregation is meiosis. Meiosis is the specialized cell division that produces gametes (sperm and egg cells), and it involves the separation of homologous chromosomes and their alleles.

How does meiosis explain Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

Meiosis involves two rounds of division, resulting in the separation of homologous chromosomes during the first division (anaphase I) and the separation of sister chromatids during the second division (anaphase II). This separation process ensures that each gamete receives only one allele for each trait, as dictated by Mendel’s Law of Segregation.

How did Mendel discover the Law of Segregation?

Mendel discovered the Law of Segregation through meticulous experiments with pea plants. He performed controlled crosses between pea plants with different traits and observed the patterns of inheritance in their offspring over multiple generations.

What violates Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

Exceptions to Mendel’s Law of Segregation can occur due to genetic factors such as incomplete dominance, codominance, and multiple alleles. In these cases, alleles may not segregate as predicted, leading to different inheritance patterns.

Which cross would best illustrate Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

A monohybrid cross involving a homozygous dominant parent (e.g., RR) and a homozygous recessive parent (e.g., rr) would best illustrate Mendel’s Law of Segregation. The F1 generation resulting from this cross would be heterozygous (Rr), and when self-fertilized, the F2 generation would exhibit a 3:1 phenotypic ratio, demonstrating the segregation of alleles.

What are alleles in the context of Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

Alleles are different versions or forms of a gene that occupy the same position on homologous chromosomes. They can be either dominant or recessive and determine the traits expressed by an organism.

How does Mendel’s Law of Segregation contribute to genetic diversity?

Mendel’s Law of Segregation ensures that each gamete carries only one allele for each trait. When gametes fuse during fertilization, they create unique combinations of alleles, leading to genetic diversity in offspring.

What is the significance of Mendel’s experiments with pea plants?

Mendel’s experiments laid the foundation for understanding the basic principles of inheritance. His observations and conclusions formed the basis of modern genetics, and his Law of Segregation explained how traits are inherited from one generation to the next.

Can Mendel’s Law of Segregation be applied to human genetics?

Yes, Mendel’s Law of Segregation applies to human genetics. It explains how genetic traits are passed from parents to offspring, and it forms the basis for understanding inheritance patterns in humans as well as other organisms.

What is the relationship between Mendel’s Law of Segregation and Punnett squares?

Punnett squares are tools used to predict the possible genetic outcomes of crosses based on Mendel’s Law of Segregation. They help visualize how alleles segregate and combine in different combinations in offspring.

Are there any exceptions to Mendel’s Law of Segregation?

Yes, exceptions to Mendel’s Law of Segregation include cases of incomplete dominance, codominance, and multiple alleles. These situations may result in different inheritance patterns that do not strictly follow the 3:1 phenotypic ratio predicted by Mendel’s law.


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