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Barr body

In those species in which sex is determined by the presence of the Y or W chromosome rather than the diploidy of the X or Z, a Barr body is the inactive X chromosome in a female cell, or the inactive Z in a male. This happens early in embryonic development at random in mammals, except in marsupials, in which the father's X chromosome is always deactivated.

The inactivation state of chromosomes is passed on to daughter cells during mitosis. Since random chromosomes are selected for inactivation early in embryonic development, this results in different regions of the adult body having different chromosomes inactivated. This can be significant if different alleles of a gene are present on the different chromosomes; in some regions of the body one allele will be active, and in other regions the other will. This is what results in the coloration pattern of female calico cats; pigmentation genes on the X chromosome are activated in different patches of skin based on which chromosome is condensed in those regions.

The Barr body chromosome is generally considered to be inert, but in fact a small number of genes remain active and expressed in some species. These genes are generally those which are present on the other sex chromosome (Y or W).

See also sex-determination system.

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