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Is diabetes a sex linked trait?


That sounds like a simple question but unfortunately it is not.  Most people have traditionally thought of "sex-linked trait" as something carried on the gender determining chromosomes, X or Y.  However, more recently we have come to realize that there is certain DNA which is associated with a structure in cells called the mitochondria which is separate from the chromosomes and the cell nucleus.  We inherit most genes on chromosomes other than the sex chromosomes so we inherit DNA that specifies a trait from both parents; however, we only get mitochondrial DNA from the egg cell provided by the mother - hence there can be traits which are handed down through the maternal line other than through the X or y chromosomes.

There are some genetic forms of diabetes which are specified in the mitochondrial DNA which means that both boys and girls can inherit that risk from their mothers.  I am not aware of any genes for diabetes that have been found associated with the x or y chromosome - if anybody knows of information to the contrary, I would appreciate if they would write in.

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Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati