Sex-linked Inheritance.

Two chromosomes, X and Y, determine the sex of an individual. Females
have the genotype XX and males XY. The X chromosome also carries many
genes responsible for traits other than sex. The Y chromosome is much
smaller and carries few other genes.
Exploring Sex-linked Genes.
Like genes on autosomes (non-sex chromosomes), sex-linked genes can
have dominant or recessive alleles. In the following examples we will
explore gene A, where A is the dominant allele and a is the recessive
allele. When investigating sex-linked traits, we show them attached to the
sex chromosomes (see table below).


X-linked homozygous
X-linked heterozygous
Not possible
X-linked homozygous
Note: heterozygous means the individual has both the dominant and
recessive allele, while homozygous individuals only have one of the
alleles. As males only have one X chromosome they cannot have both
Y-linked traits are simple to identify on a pedigree chart. Females have no
Y chromosome so only males are affected and as sons can only get their Y
chromosome from their father, every son will show the Y-linked traits of
their father. This information sheet will focus on X-linked inheritance as it
is a little more complicated.
Establishing the rules of X-linked inheritance.
Rule 1- If a daughter shows a recessive trait but her father doesn’t, it is
not sex-linked.
We know the genotype of any female who shows the recessive trait is
XaXa, as no other genotype would result in the recessive phenotype. As
with all females, she received one X chromosome from her mother and
one X chromosome from her father. Males only have one X chromosome,
so if a female has the genotype XaXa, we know her father was XaY. This
means if a female shows a recessive sex-linked trait, her father must also
show it (see the pink Punnett squares). Therefore, if a female shows a
recessive trait but her father doesn’t, it can’t be sex-linked and is
autosomal recessive.

Rule 2- Every son of a mother who shows a sex-linked recessive trait will
also show it.
Males have only one X chromosome, which they get from their mother.
Therefore, if a mother shows a recessive sex-linked trait (genotype XaXa),
she can only pass on the Xa allele to any son she has. The son will receive
the Y chromosome from his father, so it doesn’t matter whether his father
is XaY or XAY, the son is guaranteed to show the recessive trait (see the
blue Punnett squares). Conversely, if a son doesn’t show a recessive trait
but his mother does, it can’t be sex-linked and is autosomal recessive.
The chart below can be used to determine whether a trait is autosomal or
sex-linked and dominant or recessive.

The Punnett squares below show all possible genotype combinations of
parents and offspring.

The offspring coloured in (green, blue and pink) show the recessive
The pink squares highlight that every daughter who shows the
recessive trait has a father that shows it also.
The blue squares highlight that every son of a mother who shows
the recessive trait also show it.