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X-Men 2 and Genes

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I just got back from seeing X-Men 2. It's a great movie, better than the original. (The original was quite good as well.) I do have one comment on the movie. It's not really much of a spoiler, but those who are amazingly sensitive should be warned.

At one point in the movie, a character mentioned that the gene for mutation is passed only through the father's side. This strikes me as odd. The only bit of DNA that's given to a child solely from the father is the Y chromosome. This is the chromosome that makes a person male, and is only passed from a father to a son, and not to a daughter. (Unlike mitochondrial DNA, which is passed through the maternal line to both sons and daughters.)

The problem is, plenty of mutants are female. Storm, Rogue, Mystique, and Kitty Pride are all examples of female mutant characters that appear in the movie.

I'd be interested if any biologists want to comment a little.

This is just a minor flaw, a little bit of nitpicking I wanted to get off my chest. X-Men 2 was a great movie, well worth the absurd amount of money I paid to go see it.

- Tom | permalink | changelog | Last updated: 2003-05-04 22:09

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Comments

Posted on Sunday, May 04, 2003 by Chris:

Beth raised a good point:

Have the females ever bread? (If not, they could be non-expressive XYs) Moreover, is it known that the X-men all have the same gene? It expresses in very different phenotypes, so it is known that it's exactly the same genotype?

Posted on Sunday, May 04, 2003 by Tom:

I know of at least one instance: in most continuities, Mystique is Nightcrawler's mother. (His father may also have been a mutant. I don't know if a non-expressive XY can be a mother in reality.)

I'm not sure if that's true in the movie, though. There seem to be similar numbers of male and female mutants, at least among the x-men and the students at the institute.

Posted on Monday, May 05, 2003 by Chris:

Well, one idea is that the mutant gene is something which destroys egg cells, which are basically fully functional cells, whereas it doesn't bother sperm cells because they're so minimalistic.

Thus both parents could in theory pass it on, but only the half of the cells on a female mutant without the mutant gene would survive for her to ovulate with. Has it been established if the mutant gene is dominant or recessive?

Posted on Monday, May 05, 2003 by Tom:

I don't know. In the movie, there was an example of a boy who was a mutant, while his father was not, which would seem to argue recessive. But they also claimed it was only inherited from the father, which would probably argue for it being dominant.

Posted on Monday, May 05, 2003 by Chris:

Presumably not all mutants are related to each other directly from some mutant ancestor. I don't recall that ever being established. If they aren't, it means that some people pick up the mutant gene on their own.

Posted on Monday, May 05, 2003 by beth:

First of all, let me roll on the floor and laugh at the abuse of the term "mutant".

OK, done.

Now, an important rule for non-biologists when talking about biology is "never say never". In this case I can present a situation in which a gene can be passed from the father to children of either sex, with everybody involved having the appropriate XX or XY genotype, and with no other genetic monkey business going on.

It's called "imprinting". When sperm (or eggs) are made, their DNA has to be re-programmed, in a sense, to allow it to work properly in the fertilized egg. Genes can be inactivated or modified (DNA bases aren't actually changed, but I won't go into detail). This means that a gene can do something different depending on whether you inherit it from your mother or your father. Textbook example: there is one gene that causes Angelman syndrome if you get it from your mother, or Prader-Willi if you get it from your father.

That said, I'm dubious that all of the Mutants have the same mutation.

-beth

Posted on Wednesday, May 07, 2003 by beth:

Well, I just saw it. I must say I was impressed by the lack of flying CG double helices. Two thoughts on the genetics:

1) the father who passed the gene was *asymptomatic*. It could be imcomplete penetrance, or perhaps the gene has to mutate anew in each paternal cell line, which would conveniently explain the rarity and the wildly differing phenotypes, if the gene is broken differently. It still doesn't explain what genetics has to do with, say, being able to control the weather, but then, what does?

2) Maybe the kid was just being sarcastic.

-beth

Posted on Saturday, May 10, 2003 by John:

I think it's key to remember, like Beth said, even if there is a technical way to pass on these powers through your genes, what's the scientific explanation for "Bamf!"-ing around everywhere? It's already been established that the Marvel Comics people aren't exactly Rhodes scholars, so even if Mr. Bamf got abit too drunk one night lady Mystique's private stash of Yukon Gold and decided to start slinging Chromosomes about, you still have to make a largely insurmountable "Willfull suspension of Disbelief" to get anything that looks cool.

By the Way, I thought Colossus was supposed to be a major player in this movie? He barely had a cameo!

Posted on Saturday, May 10, 2003 by Tom:

From what I understand, Bamfing is done by opening a portal to another dimension, travelling through that dimension, and then opening a portal back to our dimension in a different location. Isn't it amazing what genes can do?

For bonus points, try to come up with a coherent set of physics that allows Kitty Pryde's clothes to stay with her when she falls through the floor, but the sheets on her bed to remain in place.

Posted on Saturday, May 31, 2003 by jean:

i'm mad, what about jean? it's unresolved!!!

Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 by ME:

i know all there is to know about X-men or "a.k.a" Mutants!

I have seen everything from the old and new series and all the movies that came out!!! I found some important info in my studys!

Some of the things i found was:

* Nightcrawler and Rogue are brother and siter and Mystique is there mother!

*Rogue does not like Iceman she Likes Gambit!

*And there is alot more I know but i dont want to let all of u ppl to know them because i dont think u desirve to know it! I will tell u if u answer me 1 question!

- Name all the MAIN X-men and Bad guys! ALSO name 10 ppl they helped or defeted in the OLD series!!!

GOOD LUCK! PICTURES ARE REQUIRED ANDWHEN U ANSWER MY QUESTION E-MAIL MY AT EvilShadowWizard@hotmail.com AND THEN GIVE ME UR E-MAIL AND U CAN ASK ME 3 QUESTIONS AND I WILL ANSWER THEM!!!! :)

Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 by ME:

JUST 2 LET U ALL KNOW JEAN IS STILL ALIVE BUT SHE IS KNOW THE PHOENIX!!!!!!!!!!!!

IF U NEVER KNEW THAT U R PITAFUL AND I BET ONLY

1 OUT OF EVERY 20 PPL KNEW THAT!!!!!!!

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