This glossary contains a vocabulary used by CPER concerning the overall site, regarding: meaning of scientific words, useful definitions, short explanations of some concepts, and references to reliable external sources of information on the Internet or on paper.
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The term Genotype, will be explained together with the term Phenotype.
The genotype is the genetic makeup of a cell, an organism, or an
The genotype of an organism is the inherited instructions it carries within its genetic code. Not all organisms with the same genotype look or act the same way because appearance and behavior are modified by environmental and developmental conditions. Likewise, not all organisms that look alike necessarily have the same genotype.
A phenotype is the composite of an organism's observable characteristics or traits, such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, phenology, behaviour, and products of behaviour (such as a bird's nest). A phenotype results from the expression of an organism's genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and the interactions between the two. When two or more clearly different phenotypes exist in the same population of a species, the species is called polymorph.
Phenotypic variation (due to underlying heritable genetic variation) is a fundamental prerequisite for evolution by natural selection. It is the living organism as a whole that contributes (or not) to the next generation, so natural selection affects the genetic structure of a population indirectly via the contribution of phenotypes. Without phenotypic variation, there would be no evolution by natural selection.
The interaction between genotype and phenotype has often been
conceptualized by the following relationship:
The smallest unit of replicators is the gene. Replicators cannot be directly selected upon, but they are selected on by their phenotypic effects. These effects are packaged together in organisms. We should think of the replicator as having extended phenotypic effects. These are all of the ways it affects the world, not just the effects the replicators have on the body in which they reside.
This genotype-phenotype distinction was proposed by Wilhelm Johannsen in 1911 to make clear the difference between an organism's heredity and what that heredity produces. The distinction is similar to that proposed by August Weismann, who distinguished between germ plasm (heredity) and somatic cells (the body). The genotype-phenotype distinction should not be confused with Francis Crick's central dogma of molecular biology, which is a statement about the directionality of molecular sequential information flowing from DNA to protein, and not the reverse.
Evolution of genetic traits
The genotype–phenotype distinction is drawn in genetics. "Genotype" is an organism's full hereditary information. "Phenotype" is an organism's actual observed properties, such as morphology, development, or behavior. This distinction is fundamental in the study of inheritance of traits and their evolution.
It is the organism's physical properties which directly determine its chances of survival and reproductive output, while the inheritance of physical properties occurs only as a secondary consequence of the inheritance of genes. Therefore, to properly understand the theory of evolution via natural selection, one must understand the genotype–phenotype distinction. The genes contribute to a trait, and the phenotype is the observable expression of the genes (and therefore the genotype that affects the trait). Say a white mouse had both recessive genes that cause the colour of the mouse to be inactive (so "cc"). Its genotype would be responsible for its phenotype (the white colour).
The mapping of a set of genotypes to a set of phenotypes is sometimes referred to as the genotype–phenotype map.
An organism's genotype is a major influencing factor in the development of its phenotype, but it is not the only one. Even two organisms with identical genotypes normally differ in their phenotypes. One experiences this in everyday life with monozygous (i.e. identical) twins. Identical twins share the same genotype, since their genomes are identical; but they never have the same phenotype, although their phenotypes may be very similar. This is apparent in the fact that their mothers and close friends can always tell them apart, even though others might not be able to see the subtle differences. Further, identical twins can be distinguished by their fingerprints, which are never completely identical.
The term Genotype is derived from the ancient Greek word genes (γένος) meaning "born" or "race", and týpos (τύπος), meaning "type".
The term Phenotype is derived from the ancient Greek word phainein / phainō (φαίνω) meaning "to show, to bring to light, make to appear", and typos, meaning "type".