A dilemma of penetrance parallels the uncertainty principle as array analyses uncover a disturbing continuity of human molecular variation. Among mechanisms for altered penetrance is maternal genetic effect, hypothesized to explain mother-offspring discordance from 12/13 translocation [Wilson et al., 1991] and important to consider when confronting identical genetic changes in normal mothers and their abnormal children. A boy with developmental delays, autistic features, minimal dysmorphology, and maternally inherited 17p13.3 microduplication could exemplify maternal genetic effect, as could a boy with altered brain pattern and maternally inherited Sonic Hedgehog mutation reported by Schell-Apacik et al. . Maternal genetic effects, characterized in fly, fish, and mouse, are important to consider in human DNA analysis so that identical findings in mother and child are not routinely dismissed as benign variations. Suspect families can define relevant maternal-zygote transition (MZT) genes, provide assays for oocyte function and disruption, and shift anomaly emphasis from pattern recognition to pattern restoration. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.