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The following intro comes from – Biology 110H Basic Concepts, Stephen,  haeffer; Variation in Dominance, Multiple Alleles, Epistasis, Pleiotropy, and Polygenic Inheritance, Penn State.

Sometimes a gene at one location on a chromosome can affect the expression of a gene at a second location (epistasis). A good example of epistasis is the genetic interactions that produce coat color in horses and other mammals.

In horses, brown coat color (B) is dominant over tan (b).

Gene expression is dependent on a second gene that controls the deposition of pigment in hair.

The dominant gene (C) codes for the presence of pigment in hair, whereas the recessive gene (c) codes for the absence of pigment.

If a horse is homozygous recessive for the second gene (cc), it will have a white coat regardless of the genetically programmed coat color (B gene) because pigment is not deposited in the hair.epistasis in horse punnett square

The figure above demonstrates this scenario. Several of the white horses have genotypes for brown or tan coat color in the first gene, but are completely white because they are homozygous recessive for the gene controlling pigment deposition.


Great resource here – “The term epistasis describes a certain relationship between genes, where an allele of one gene (e.g., ‘spread’) hides or masks the visible output, or phenotype, of another gene (e.g., pattern). Epistasis is entirely different from dominant and recessive, which are terms that apply to different alleles of the same gene (e.g., ‘bar’ is dominant to ‘barless’ and recessive to ‘check’).”

Click Epistasis, Genetic Science Learning Center, Univ of Utah

Epistasis: Gene Interaction and Phenotype Effects
By: Ilona Miko, Nature Education 1(1):197

Epistasis: Gene Interaction and Phenotype Effects. Nature education.

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