The practical difficulties noted by Carrie Schneider, Daphne Preuss, and
Robert Robbins are valid concerns with any system of nomenclature that
tries to indicate dominance relationships on top of allelic designations.
The difficulties arise from the fact that dominance is a relative property,
while nomenclatures tend to have absolute rules ("once designated Abc1-1,
always designated Abc1-1"). Nonetheless, nearly all plant geneticists (as
well as yeast and fly geneticists) have operated comfortably and effectively
with this approach for many decades. Geneticists use dominance designations
because they do in practice have great utility. The reason that they do is
that nearly all plant genomes behave genetically as diploids. Thus, in any
given cross, only two alleles of a gene are involved, so there is no
confusion if one is indicated as dominant and the other as recessive. In fact
this can be quite convenient to the reader because it saves the trouble of
looking up or memorizing the dominance relationship between the alleles.
Still, the disadvantages are real, so I suggest consideration of new
nomenclatural rules that adopt parts of both positions and recognize the
inherent relativism of dominance relationships:
1) Each allele of every gene must continue to have a unique designation,
e.g., abc1-1, abc1-2, etc.
2) In "official" gene lists the lower case designation will continue to be
used, avoiding the relativism problem. Stock centers and databases can
continue operating exactly as they do now.
3) Upper case designations may be used in publications whenever appropriate
and useful, but ONLY when retaining the specific allelic designations, as in:
Abc1-1/Abc1-1 x abc1-1/abc1-2 ---> Abc1-1/abc1-2
(A cross between two homozygous lines to produce a heterzygous F1, where
allele Abc1-1 is dominant over abc1-2.)
4) All dominance designations are recognized to be relative and subject to
change whenever dominance relationships change. Thus, an allele designated
as Abc1-1 in crosses with allele abc1-2 would be redesigated as abc1-1 in
crosses with a third allele, Abc1-3, which is dominant over both abc1-1 and
Eliminating the absolutism eliminates the practical difficulties mentioned on
the netork. This may require some adjustment by maize geneticists coming to
work on Arabidopsis, but little adjustment for most current Arabidopsis
researchers. The adjustments would be in the direction of a more pragmatic
usage that reflects biological realities.
Dept of Environmental Horticulture
UC Davis, Davis, Calif. 95616-8587
rajorgensen at ucdavis.edu