Sex linkage

the sex-specific patterns of inheritance and presentation when a gene mutation is present on a sex chromosome rather than a non-sex chromosome

Sex linkage is a term in genetics. It applies to alleles (forms of a gene) on the X chromosome.

In mammals, which have an XX/XY system of sex determination, the X chromosome has many more genes than the Y chromosome. This explains the inheritance of such conditions as colour blindness and haemophilia. They are caused by recessive alleles, and usually do not show the condition in females. This is because those females carrying the mutant are most likely to be heterozygous for the allele.[1] However, if the mutant allele is carried by a male, the condition will develop, because his X chromosome has the mutant allele, but his Y chromosome has no allele at that locus.

Related termsEdit

Sex-linked characters controlled by genes on sex chromosomes are not the only kind of sex-related characters.[2]

Sex-influenced traitsEdit

Sex-influenced or sex-conditioned traits are phenotypes affected by whether they appear in a male or female body.[3] Even in a homozygous female the condition may not be expressed fully. Example: baldness in humans.

Sex-limited traitsEdit

These are characters only expressed in one sex. They may be caused by genes on either autosomal or sex chromosomes.[3] Examples: female sterility in Drosophila; and polymorphism in insects, especially in relation to mimicry. Closely linked genes on autosomes called "supergenes" are often responsible for the latter.[4][5][6]


  1. Because the frequency of recessive X-linked phenotypes in females is the square of that in males. If 1 in 20 males in a human population are green colour blind, then 1 in 400 females in the population are expected to be colour blind (1/20)*(1/20). Since the mutant alleles are recessive, it takes two 'doses' to make the effect show in the females.
  2. Zirkle, Conrad 1946. The discovery of sex-influenced, sex limited and sex-linked heredity. In Ashley Montagu M.F. (ed) Studies in the history of science and learning offered in homage to George Sarton on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. New York: Schuman, p167–194.
  3. 3.0 3.1 King R.C; Stansfield W.D. & Mulligan P.K. 2006. A dictionary of genetics. 7th ed, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-530761-5
  4. Mallet J. & Joron M. (1999). "The evolution of diversity in warning color and mimicry: polymorphisms, shifting balance, and speciation". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 30: 201–33. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.30.1.201.
  5. Ford E.B. 1965. Genetic polymorphism. p17-25. MIT Press 1965.
  6. Joron M, Papa R, Beltrán M,; et al. (2006). "A conserved supergene locus controls colour pattern diversity in Heliconius butterflies". PLoS Biol. 4 (10): e303. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040303. PMC 1570757. PMID 17002517.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)