Autosomal Recessive Inheritance

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The inheritance pattern of an autosomal recessive disorder with two carrier parents reflects a 3:1 probability of expression among offspring. (credit: U.S. National Library of Medicine)

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

When a genetic disorder is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, the disorder corresponds to the recessive phenotype. Heterozygous individuals will not display symptoms of this disorder, because their unaffected gene will compensate. Such an individual is called a carrier. Carriers for an autosomal recessive disorder may never know their genotype unless they have a child with the disorder.

An example of an autosomal recessive disorder is cystic fibrosis (CF), which we introduced earlier. CF is characterized by the chronic accumulation of a thick, tenacious mucus in the lungs and digestive tract. Decades ago, children with CF rarely lived to adulthood. With advances in medical technology, the average lifespan in developed countries has increased into middle adulthood. CF is a relatively common disorder that occurs in approximately 1 in 2000 Caucasians. A child born to two CF carriers would have a 25 percent chance of inheriting the disease. This is the same 3:1 dominant:recessive ratio that Mendel observed in his pea plants would apply here. The pattern is shown in the image above, using a diagram that tracks the likely incidence of an autosomal recessive disorder on the basis of parental genotypes.

On the other hand, a child born to a CF carrier and someone with two unaffected alleles would have a 0 percent probability of inheriting CF, but would have a 50 percent chance of being a carrier. Other examples of autosome recessive genetic illnesses include the blood disorder sickle-cell anemia, the fatal neurological disorder Tay–Sachs disease, and the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: