Analyzing Pedigrees

An important technique used by geneticists to study human inheritance is the pedigree. A pedigree is a pictorial representation of a family history, essentially a family tree that outlines the inheritance of one or more characteristics. The symbols commonly used in pedigrees are summarized in i Figure 6.2. The pedigree shown in I Figure 6.3a illustrates a family with Waardenburg syndrome, an autosomal dominant type of deafness that may be accompanied by fair skin, a white forelock, and visual problems ( FIGURE 6.3b). Males in a pedigree are represented by squares, females by circles. A horizontal line drawn between two symbols representing a man and a woman indicates a mating; children are connected to their parents by vertical lines extending below the parents. Persons who exhibit the trait of interest are represented by filled circles and squares; in the pedigree of Figure 6.3a, the filled symbols represent members of the family who have Waardenburg syndrome. Unaffected persons are represented by open circles and squares.

Let's look closely at Figure 6.3 and consider some additional features of a pedigree. Each generation in a pedigree is identified by a Roman numeral; within each generation, family members are assigned Arabic numerals, and children in each family are listed in birth order from left to right. Person II-4, a man with Waardenburg syndrome, mated with II-5, an unaffected woman, and they produced five children. The oldest of their children is III-8, a male with Waardenburg syndrome, and the youngest is III-14, an unaffected female. Deceased family members are indicated by a slash through the circle or square, as shown for I-1 and II-1 in Figure 6.3a. Twins are represented by diagonal lines

I 6.2 Standard symbols are used in pedigrees.

Male Female Sex unknown or unspecified

Unaffected individual


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