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Mechanisms of inheritance

Part 1. Genetics

1.6. Genetic Medicine and Clinical Genetics

Basic Techniques and Approaches

  1. Arthur S. Aylsworth

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047001153X.g106401

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

How to Cite

Aylsworth, A. S. 2005. Mechanisms of inheritance. Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics. 1:1.6:77.

Author Information

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Inheritance patterns depend on genetic factors that can be monogenic or multigenic and deterministic or nondeterministic. Environment, epistasis, and chance are the factors that affect phenotypic expression. Variations on the basic themes of monogenic inheritance commonly involve issues of penetrance and expression. Mendel's concepts of dominance and recessiveness are now blurred by our recognition of phenomena such as heterozygote expression, incomplete penetrance, gene–gene interaction, and gene–environment interaction. While pedigrees with only distant relatives affected are frequently interpreted as representing examples of complex or multifactorial inheritance, it is clear that the same patterns of inheritance can be caused by chromosome rearrangements and mutations in single genes with major effects. The causes of complex phenotypes are heterogeneous and include stochastic combinations of genetic and environmental factors, where the genetic contribution may be determined by one or more genes.


  • inheritance patterns;
  • Mendelian inheritance;
  • phenotype;
  • polygenic;
  • multifactorial;
  • complex disease;
  • expression;
  • penetrance;
  • epistasis;
  • chance;
  • environment;
  • monogenic;
  • multigenic