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Any one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that may occur alternatively at a given site on a chromosome. Alleles may occur in pairs, or there may be multiple alleles affecting the expression of a particular trait. If paired alleles are the same, the organism is said to be homozygous for that trait; if they are different, the organism is heterozygous. A dominant allele will override the traits of a recessive allele in a heterozygous pairing (seedominance and recessiveness). In some traits, alleles may be codominant (i.e., neither acts as dominant or recessive). An individual cannot possess more than two alleles for a given trait. All genetic traits are the result of the interactions of alleles.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on allele, visit Britannica.com.