Genetics is the study of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms. It explores how traits are passed from parents to offspring through genetic material like DNA. Understanding genetics helps unravel the mechanisms behind inherited characteristics, diseases, and the diversity of life forms on Earth.

Genetic crosses are experimental tools used to study inheritance patterns by mating organisms with known genotypes. These crosses follow principles established by Gregor Mendel, such as the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment. For instance, a dihybrid cross also known as two-traits cross, involves studying two different traits simultaneously, allowing researchers to observe how genes for each trait segregate independently during gamete formation. This fundamental concept provides insights into genetic diversity and the inheritance of complex traits in organisms. In this article, we are about to explain dihybrid cross in practical way so that it could be understood easily.


Mendelian Dihybrid Cross – Definition and Example

Dihybrid Cross

A Mendelian dihybrid cross is a genetic experiment that explores the inheritance patterns of two different traits in offspring. Following Gregor Mendel’s principles, it investigates how alleles for each trait segregate independently during gamete formation. For instance, when crossing pea plants with heterozygous genotypes for seed color (Yy) and seed shape (Rr), the resulting offspring exhibit various combinations of these traits, illustrating how genes for each trait assort independently. We elaborate this with the following pea plant example.


Explain Dihybrid Cross in Pea Plants

Consider a 2×2 cross in pea plants involving two traits: seed color and seed shape. Let’s denote yellow seeds as dominant (Y) and green seeds as recessive (y), and round seeds as dominant (R) and wrinkled seeds as recessive (r). Remember: We denote dominant alleles by capital alphabets and recessive by small alphabets.

1. Parental Generation (P):

Parental generation is the first set of parents being crossed.they are yellow round seeds (YYRR) are crossed with green wrinkled seeds (yyrr) in our example.

2. F1 Generation:

All offspring in the F1 generation will be heterozygous for both traits (YyRr). Keep it in mind: due to the random assortment of alleles during gamete formation and independent assortment of genes for different traits, all offspring in the F1 generation of a dihybrid cross will be heterozygous for the two traits under study.

3. Dihybrid Cross (F1 × F1):

When the F1 generation (YyRr) is crossed, the possible gametes produced are YR, Yr, yR, and yr. Remember the FOIL rule of gametes formation.
Using a Punnett square, we can predict the genotypic and phenotypic ratios of the offspring.

Expected Phenotypic Ratio of dihybrid cross in pea plant:
– Yellow round seeds (YYRR, YyRR, YYRr, YyRr): 9
– Yellow wrinkled seeds (YYrr, Yyrr): 3
– Green round seeds (yyRR, yyRr): 3
– Green wrinkled seeds (yyrr): 1

Thus a dihybrid cross has 9:3:3:1 phenotypic ratio, which demonstrates the independent assortment of seed color and seed shape genes during gamete formation and inheritance in pea plants.


What is the purpose of dihybrid cross?

The purpose of conducting a dihybrid cross in genetics is to understand how two different traits are inherited and combined in offspring. This experiment helps students grasp the principles of Mendel’s laws of inheritance, specifically the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment, in a practical way.

Understanding Allele Combinations

By studying a dihybrid cross, students can observe how alleles for two different traits segregate and combine during sexual reproduction. For example, in a cross involving pea plants with yellow (Y) and green (y) seed colors, and round (R) and wrinkled (r) seed shapes, students can see how alleles for seed color (Y/y) and seed shape (R/r) combine in offspring.

Reinforcing Mendelian Principles

The dihybrid cross reinforces the concept of Mendel’s Law of Segregation, which states that alleles for each gene segregate during gamete formation. It also highlights the Law of Independent Assortment, showing that alleles for different traits segregate independently of one another.

Predicting Genotypic and Phenotypic Ratios

Through Punnett squares and genetic diagrams, students can predict the genotypic and phenotypic ratios of offspring resulting from the dihybrid cross. This helps them understand how genetic traits are passed from parents to offspring and the variability in trait expression.

Exploring Genetic Variation

Dihybrid crosses also demonstrate genetic variation within populations. Offspring in the F2 generation of a dihybrid cross exhibit different combinations of alleles, leading to a range of phenotypic traits. This diversity illustrates how genetic recombination contributes to biodiversity.


Steps of Dihybrid Cross

A dihybrid cross is completed in the following steps.

Step-1: Choose Parental Organisms

Select parent organisms that are heterozygous for both traits of interest. For example, choose pea plants with one parent having yellow seeds and round seeds (YyRr) and another parent with green seeds and wrinkled seeds (yyrr). Here seed colour and shape are the two parental traits under study.Yellow colour and round shape is considered as dominant trait in this illustration thus, are denoted by capital letters.

Step – 2: Determine Gametes

Identify the possible gametes each parent can produce based on their genotypes. In our example, the first parent can produce gametes with alleles YR, Yr, yR, and yr, while the second parent can produce gametes with alleles yr only.

Step -3: Create a Punnett Square

Draw a Punnett square with the alleles from one parent on the top and the alleles from the other parent on the side. Fill in the squares with the possible allele combinations to predict the genotypic and phenotypic ratios of the offspring. Following punnett square is constructed for the above scenario where one parent have yellow and rounded seeds (YyRr) while the other parent has green and wrinkled seeds.

dihybrid punnett square

Step-4: Analyze Offspring Genotypes

Examine the Punnett square to determine the genotypic ratios of the offspring. Each square in the Punnett square represents a possible genotype combination resulting from the cross. From the above table, we have these possible genotypic ratios:
YyRr = 4/16
Yyrr = 4/16
yyRr = 4/16
and yyrr = 4/16

Step-5: Determine Phenotypic Ratios

Translate the genotypic ratios into phenotypic ratios to understand the observable traits in the offspring. Consider the dominant and recessive alleles for each trait to determine the phenotype of the offspring. Following are the phenotypes obtained from the genotypes in step-3:
YR = 4/16 (Yellow and rounded seed – Both traits are dominant)
Yr = 4/16 (Yellow and wrinkled seed – Colour is dominant while shape is recessive)
yR = 4/16 ( Green and rounded seed – Colour is recessive while shape is dominant)
and yr = 4/16 (Green and wrinkled seed – both traits are recessive)

Step- 5: Interpret the Results

Based on the Punnett square analysis in step-3, interpret the expected outcomes in terms of genotype and phenotype. This analysis helps us understand how genes for different traits segregate and combine independently during inheritance.

These straightforward steps allow us to explore how two different traits are inherited in offspring.


Diagram of dihybrid cross

The following dihybrid cross diagram explains the example of pea plant seed’s two-traits cross diagrammatically for better understanding.

dihybrid cross diagram

The diagram starts with the so-called heterozygous parental generation whose genotypes are combined to form 4 gametes each, known as Felial or F1 generation. A punnett square is constructed from these 8 gametes taking one parent’s gametes on row while the other on the column. Crossing these gametes will yield 4×4 =16 possible genotypes. To understand the meaning of these genotypes, a pictorial representation and its meaning is given below the punnett square for better understanding.

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