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Allelic exclusion

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Allelic exclusion

(Science: cell biology, genetics) The process whereby one or more loci on one of the chromosome sets in a diploid cell is inactivated (or destroyed) so that the locus or loci is (are) not expressed in that cell or a clone founded by it.

For example in mammals one of the x chromosome pairs of females is inactivated early in development (see Lyon hypothesis) so that individual cells express only one allelic form of the product of that locus. Since the choice of chromosome to be inactivated is random, different cells express one or other of the x chromosome products resulting in mosaicism.

The process is also known to occur in immunoglobulin genes so that a clone expresses only one of the two possible allelic forms of immunoglobulin.