Major Understandings

2.1a Genes are inherited, but their expression can be modified by interactions with the


2.1b Every organism requires a set of coded instructions for specifying its traits. For off-

spring to resemble their parents, there must be a reliable way to transfer information

from one generation to the next. Heredity is the passage of these instructions from one

generation to another.

2.1c Hereditary information is contained in genes, located in the chromosomes of each

cell. An inherited trait of an individual can be determined by one or by many genes, and

a single gene can influence more than one trait. A human cell contains many thousands

of different genes in its nucleus.

2.1d In asexually reproducing organisms, all the genes come from a single parent.

Asexually produced offspring are normally genetically identical to the parent.

2.1e In sexually reproducing organisms, the new individual receives half of the genetic

information from its mother (via the egg) and half from its father (via the sperm). Sexually

produced offspring often resemble, but are not identical to, either of their parents.

2.1f In all organisms, the coded instructions for specifying the characteristics of the

organism are carried in DNA, a large molecule formed from subunits arranged in a

sequence with bases of four kinds (represented by A, G, C, and T). The chemical and

structural properties of DNA are the basis for how the genetic information that under-

lies heredity is both encoded in genes (as a string of molecular "bases") and replicated

by means of a template.

2.1g Cells store and use coded information. The genetic information stored in DNA is

used to direct the synthesis of the thousands of proteins that each cell requires.

2.1h Genes are segments of DNA molecules. Any alteration of the DNA sequence is a

mutation. Usually, an altered gene will be passed on to every cell that develops from it.

2.1i The work of the cell is carried out by the many different types of molecules it

assembles, mostly proteins. Protein molecules are long, usually folded chains made

from 20 different kinds of amino acids in a specific sequence. This sequence influences

the shape of the protein. The shape of the protein, in turn, determines its function.

2.1j Offspring resemble their parents because they inherit similar genes that code for

the production of proteins that form similar structures and perform similar functions.

2.1k The many body cells in an individual can be very different from one another, even

though they are all descended from a single cell and thus have essentially identical

genetic instructions. This is because different parts of these instructions are used in

different types of cells, and are influenced by the cell’s environment and past history.