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Mendel's First Law of Genetics (Law of
Mendel made two innovations to the science of genetics:
1. developed pure lines
2. counted his results and kept statistical notes
Mendel's experimental organism was a common garden pea (Pisum sativum),
which has a flower that lends itself to self-pollination.
Mendel was able to demonstrate that traits were passed from each parent to their
offspring through the inheritance of genes.
Mendel's work showed:
1. Each parent contributes one factor of each trait shown in offspring.
2. The two members of each pair of factors segregate from each other during
gamete formation.
3. The blending theory of inheritance was discounted.
4. Males and females contribute equally to the traits in their offspring.
5. Acquired traits are not inherited.
Results from Mendel's Experiments
Parental Cross
F1 Phenotype
F2 Phenotypic Ratio
F2 Ratio
Round x Wrinkled Seed
5474 Round:1850 Wrinkled 2.96:1
Yellow x Green Seeds
6022 Yellow:2001 Green
Red x White Flowers
705 Red:224 White
Tall x Dwarf Plants
l787 Tall:227 Dwarf
What is seen in the F1 generation? We always see only one of the two parental
phenotypes in this generation. But the F1 possesses the information needed to
produce both parental phenotypes in the following generation. The F2 generation
always produced a 3:1 ratio where the dominant trait is present three times as
often as the recessive trait. Mendel coined two terms to describe the relationship
of the two phenotypes based on the F1 and F2 phenotypes.
Mendel's Conclusions
1. The hereditary determinants are of a particulate nature. These
determinants are called genes.
2. Each parent has a gene pair in each cell for each trait studied. The F1 from
a cross of two pure lines contains one allele for the dominant phenotype
and one for the recessive phenotype. These two alleles comprise the gene
3. One member of the gene pair segregates into a gamete, thus each
gamete only carries one member of the gene pair.
4. Gametes unite at random and irrespective of the other gene pairs
Using symbols we can depict the cross of tall and short pea plants in the
following manner:
The F2 generation was created by selfing the F1 plants. This can be depicted
graphically in a Punnett square. From these results Mendel coined several other
terms and formulated his first law. First the Punnett Square is shown.
Union of Gametes D
At Random
The Punnett Square allows us to determine specific genetic ratios.
Genotypic ratio of F2: 1 DD : 2 Dd : 1 dd (or 3 D_ : 1 dd)
Phenotypic ratio of F2: 3 tall : 1 dwarf
Mendel's First Law - the law of segregation; during gamete formation each
member of the allelic pair separates from the other member to form the genetic
constitution of the gamete
Confirmation of Mendel's First Law Hypothesis
With these observations, Mendel could form a hypothesis about segregation. To
test this hypothesis, Mendel selfed the F2 plants. If his law was correct he could
predict what the results would be. And indeed, the results occurred has he
From these results we can now confirm the genotype of the F2 individuals.
Genotypes Genetic Description
F2 Tall Plants
1/3 DD
2/3 Dd
F2 Dwarf Plants all dd
Pure line homozygote dominant
Pure line homozygote recessive
Thus the F2 is genotypically 1/4 DD : 1/2 Dd : 1/4 dd
This data was also available from the Punnett Square using the gametes from
the F1 individual. So although the phenotypic ratio is 3:1 the genotypic ratio is
Mendel performed one other cross to confirm the hypothesis of segregation --the backcross. Remember, the first cross is between two pure line parents to
produce an F1 heterozygote.
At this point instead of selfing the F1, Mendel crossed it to a pure line,
homozygote dwarf plant.
Backcross: Dd x dd
Backcross One or (BC1) Phenotypes: 1 Tall : 1 Dwarf
BC1 Genotypes: 1 Dd : 1 dd
Backcross - the cross of an F1 hybrid to one of the homozygous parents; for pea
plant height the cross would be Dd x DD or Dd x dd; most often, though a
backcross is a cross to a fully recessive parent
Testcross - the cross of any individual to a homozygous recessive parent; used
to determine if the individual is homozygous dominant or heterozygous
So far, all the discussion has concentrated on monohybrid crosses.
Monohybrid cross - a cross between parents that differ at a single gene pair
(usually AA x aa)
Monohybrid - the offspring of two parents that are homozygous for alternate
alleles of a gene pair