The Autosomal Dominant Inheritance

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Inheritance pattern of an autosomal dominant disorder, such as neurofibromatosis, is shown in a Punnett square.

Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

  • Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In people with CF, mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene cause the CFTR protein to become dysfunctional. When the protein is not working correctly, it’s unable to help move chloride — a component of salt — to the cell surface. Without the chloride to attract water to the cell surface, the mucus in various organs becomes thick and sticky.

Autosomal dominance is a pattern of inheritance characteristic of some genetic diseases. “Autosomal” means that the gene in question is located on one of the numbered, or non-sex, chromosomes. “Dominant” means that a single copy of the disease-associated mutation is enough to cause the disease. This is in contrast to a recessive disorder, where two copies of the mutation are needed to cause the disease. Huntington’s disease is a common example of an autosomal dominant genetic disorder.

In the case of cystic fibrosis, the disorder is recessive to the normal phenotype. However, a genetic abnormality may be dominant to the normal phenotype. When the dominant allele is located on one of the 22 pairs of autosomes (nonsex chromosomes), we refer to its inheritance pattern as autosomal dominant. An example of an autosomal dominant disorder is neurofibromatosis type I, a disease that induces tumor formation within the nervous system that leads to skin and skeletal deformities. Consider a couple in which one parent is heterozygous for this disorder (and who therefore has neurofibromatosis), Nn, and one parent is homozygous for the normal gene, nn. The heterozygous parent would have a 50 percent chance of passing the dominant allele for this disorder to his or her offspring, and the homozygous parent would always pass the normal allele. Therefore, four possible offspring genotypes are equally likely to occur: Nn, Nn, nn, and nn. That is, every child of this couple would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting neurofibromatosis. This inheritance pattern is shown in the image above, in a form called a Punnett square, named after its creator, the British geneticist Reginald Punnett.

Other genetic diseases that are inherited in this pattern are achondroplastic dwarfism, Marfan syndrome, and Huntington’s disease. Because autosomal dominant disorders are expressed by the presence of just one gene, an individual with the disorder will know that he or she has at least one faulty gene. The expression of the disease may manifest later in life, after the childbearing years, which is the case in Huntington’s disease.

  • Achondroplasia is a disorder of bone growth that prevents the changing of cartilage (particularly in the long bones of the arms and legs) to bone. It is characterized by dwarfism, limited range of motion at the elbows, large head size (macrocephaly), small fingers, and normal intelligence.
  • Marfan syndrome is an inherited disorder that affects connective tissue — the fibers that support and anchor your organs and other structures in your body. Marfan syndrome most commonly affects the heart, eyes, blood vessels and skeleton.
  • Huntington disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of thinking ability (cognition).


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: