What Genes Are Inherited from the Mother Only?

Jul 21, 2023 | DNA science

What Genes Are Inherited from the Mother Only?

Understanding your genes can not only be informative, but it can also be a fun way for you to learn more about what makes you unique. A person’s genetic makeup is a combination of inherited genes from their mother and father. Here, you will learn about what genes are, how they’re inherited, and the specific genes you acquire from each parent. 


How Are Genes Inherited?

Every cell in the human body contains a set of genetic instructions stored within molecules known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is composed of four chemical bases:

These bases pair up to form “base pairs,” which are strung together into long chain-like structures which form our chromosomes.

Humans typically have 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs. A person will inherit one set of 23 chromosomes from their mother and another set of 23 from their father. Of the 23 chromosomal sets a person inherits, 22 sets are autosomes, and one set will be sex chromosomes – XX (female) or XY (male). 


Uniquely Maternal Genes

While most genes come from both parents, there are certain types of genes a person will inherit exclusively from their mother, including: 


Mitochondrial DNA

Perhaps the most well-known type of DNA you inherit solely from your mother is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Unlike the DNA in the cell’s nucleus (nuclear DNA), which is a combination of both parents’ genetic material, you can find mtDNA in the mitochondria – the “powerhouse” of the cell. 


X Chromosome Inheritance in Males

Another aspect of maternal inheritance is the X chromosome in males. Males inherit one X chromosome from their mother and one Y chromosome from their father, making them XY. Females, on the other hand, inherit an X chromosome from both parents, making them XX. This inheritance means that all of the genetic material inside a male’s X chromosome is maternally derived.


Uniquely Paternal Genes

Just like certain genes are inherited exclusively from the mother, there are specific types of genetic material a person will inherit only from their father. Here are a few examples:


Y Chromosome Inheritance in Males

The Y chromosome in males is arguably the most well-known example of paternally inherited genetic material. As mentioned earlier, males inherit an X chromosome from their mother and a Y chromosome from their father. This Y chromosome is entirely paternally derived.


Non-Recombining Region of the Y Chromosome (NRY)

While small compared to its X counterpart, the Y chromosome contains a segment known as the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome (NRY). This segment is almost exclusively passed down from father to son without recombination or mixing with maternal DNA. Due to the NRY being derived from the father, it can be helpful in tracing ancestry/lineage and paternity testing.


Traits Inherited Specifically from the Mother

Some specific traits that a child can inherit from their mother include:


Ability to Lose Weight 

One study states that the amount of a certain type of fat you inherit comes from the mother. A person carries two main fat types – white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). Brown adipose tissue can increase a person’s metabolism and help them maintain healthy body weight. 

This 2018 study concludes that the amount of brown adipose tissue a person inherits comes from the long non-coding RNA H19 (lncRNA H19), which the mother passes down. 


Ability to Focus 

A mother may also play a hand in their child’s ability to focus. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, a child is more likely to develop attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point in their life if their mother has lower levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in many vital functions in the brain, including mood, attention, and impulse control.



According to many leaders in the field of genetics, a child inherits their intelligence primarily through the X chromosome. Considering that women have two X chromosomes, some scientists theorize mothers are twice as likely to pass down intelligence-related traits.

One interesting study that supports this theory was conducted by the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, Scotland. 

This study interviewed participants (ages 14-22) every year. Researchers found that the best predictor of intelligence was their mother’s IQ. On average, participant IQs varied only 15 points from their mothers.


Understanding Your DNA

Understanding how genetics works and what you inherit from your parents can be quite interesting. With relationship and lifestyle testing services from an accredited provider like DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC), you can learn so much about yourself –  all from your DNA. Personalized lifestyle DNA testing options available through DDC include:


Learn More About Your DNA!


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