Common terms used in genetics

  • Gene – basic unit of heredity that codes for a specific trait
  • locus – the specific location of a gene on a chromosome (locus – plural loci)
  • somatic cell – all body cells except reproductive cells
  • gamete – reproductive cells (i.e. sperm & eggs for animals and pollen grains and ovules for plants)
  • chromosome – elongate cellular structure composed of DNA and protein – they are the vehicles which carry DNA in cells
  • Diploid (2n) – cellular condition where each chromosome type is represented by two homologous chromosomes. Somatic cells are diploid.
  • Haploid (n) – cellular condition where each chromosome type is represented by only one chromosome. Reproductive cells are haploid.
  • homologous chromosome – chromosome of the same size and shape which carry the same type of genes
  • chromatid – one of two duplicated chromosomes connected at the centromere
  • centromere – region of chromosome where microtubules attach during mitosis and meiosis
  • Allele – alternate forms of the same gene.
  • Homozygous – having two identical alleles for a given gene
  • Heterozygous – having two different alleles for a given gene
  • Genotype – genetic makeup of an organism
  • Phenotype – physical appearance of an organism
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