5.6.2 Mendelian Disorders

Broadly, genetic disorders may be grouped into two categories – Mendelian disorders and Chromosomal disorders. Mendelian disorders are mainly determined by alteration or mutation in the single gene.

These disorders are transmitted to the offspring on the same lines as we have studied in the principle of inheritance. The pattern of inheritance of such Mendelian disorders can be traced in a family by the pedigree analysis. Most common and prevalent Mendelian disorders are Haemophilia, Cystic fibrosis, Sickle-cell anaemia, Colour blindness, Phenylketonuria, Thalesemia, etc.

It is important to mention here that such Mendelian disorders may be dominant or recessive. By pedigree analysis one can easily understand whether the trait in question is dominant or recessive. Similarly, the trait may also be linked to the sex chromosome as in case of haemophilia.

It is evident that this X-linked recessive trait shows transmission from carrier female to male progeny. A representative pedigree is shown in Figure 5.14 for dominant and recessive traits, discuss with your teacher and design pedigrees for characters linked to both autosomes and sex chromosome.

Haemophilia : This sex linked recessive disease, which shows its transmission from unaffected carrier female to some of the male progeny has been widely studied. In this disease, a single protein that is a part of the cascade of proteins involved in the clotting of blood is affected. Due to this, in an affected individual a simple cut will result in non-stop bleeding.

The heterozygous female (carrier) for haemophilia may transmit the disease to sons. The possibility of a female becoming a haemophilic is extremely rare because mother of such a female has to be at least carrier and the father should be haemophilic (unviable in the later stage of life). The family pedigree of Queen Victoria shows a number ofhaemophilicdescendents as she was a carrier of the disease.

Sickle-cell anaemia : This is an autosome linked recessive trait that can be transmitted from parents to the offspring when both the partners are carrier for the gene (or heterozygous). The disease is controlled by a single pair of allele, HbA and HbS. Out of the three possible genotypes only homozygous individuals for HbS (HbSHbS) show the diseased phenotype.

Heterozygous (HbAHbS) individuals appear apparently unaffected but they are carrier of the disease as there is 50 per cent probability of transmission of the mutant gene to the progeny, thus exhibiting sickle-cell trait. The defect is caused by the substitution of Glutamic acid (Glu) by Valine (Val) at the sixth position of the beta globin chain of the haemoglobin molecule.

The substitution of amino acid in the globin protein results due to the single base substitution at the sixth codon of the beta globin gene from GAG to GUG. The mutant haemoglobin molecule undergoes polymerisation under low oxygen tension causing the change in the shape of the RBC from biconcave disc to elongated sickle like structure.

Phenylketonuria : This inborn error of metabolism is also inherited as the autosomal recessive trait. The affected individual lacks an enzyme that converts the amino acid phenylalanine into tyrosine.

As a result of this phenylalanine is accumulated and converted into phenylpyruvic acid and other derivatives. Accumulation of these in brain results in mental retardation. These are also excreted through urine because of its poor absorption by kidney.

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