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Difference Between Somatic and Germline Mutations

Somatic mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in any cell apart from the germ cells (ovum or sperm). Somatic mutations do not pass through the lineage and hence are nonhereditary. Germline mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in their germ cells, that is ova or sperm. These mutations are carried to the offspring and hence are hereditary.

What are somatic mutations?

Definition:

Somatic mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in any cell apart from the germ cells (ovum or sperm). Somatic mutations do not pass through the lineage and hence are nonhereditary.

Other names:

Somatic mutations are also called acquired mutations.

Location:

Somatic mutation can occur in any body cell apart from the germ cells. Examples include liver cells, bone cells, skin cells, and muscle cells.

Occurrence:

Somatic mutations can occur at any period in an organism’s life

Influence:

Somatic mutations affect only a single tissue hence its influence is localized.

Examples:

Most of the tumors in the body are due to somatic mutations.

What are germline mutations?

Definition:

Germline mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in their germ cells, that is ova or sperm. These mutations are carried to the offspring and hence are hereditary.

Other names:

Germline mutations are also called hereditary mutations.

Location:

Germline mutations occur in the germ cells in various stages of gamete formation.

Occurrence:

Germline mutations occur only during gametogenesis.

Influence:

Germline mutations affect either the sperm or the ova hence these mutations are transferred to the offspring and are found in all the cells of the offspring.

Examples:

Two tumors that are caused by germline mutations are retinoblastoma of the eye and Wilm’s tumor in the kidneys.

Difference between Somatic and Germline mutations

Definition:

Somatic mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in any cell apart from the germ cells (ovum or sperm). Somatic mutations do not pass through the lineage and hence are nonhereditary. Germline mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in their germ cells, that is ova or sperm. These mutations are carried to the offspring and hence are hereditary.

Other names:

Somatic mutations are also called acquired mutations. Germline mutations are also called hereditary mutations. 

Location:

Somatic mutation can occur in any body cell apart from the germ cells. Examples include liver cells, bone cells, skin cells, and muscle cells. Germline mutations occur in the germ cells in various stages of gamete formation.

Occurrence:

Somatic mutations can occur at any period in an organism’s life. Germline mutations occur only during gametogenesis.

Influence:

Somatic mutations affect only a single tissue hence its influence is localized. Germline mutations affect either the sperm or the ova hence these mutations are transferred to the offspring and are found in all the cells of the offspring.

Examples:

The majority of the tumors in the body are due to somatic mutations. Two tumors that are caused by germline mutations are retinoblastoma of the eye and Wilm’s tumor in the kidneys.

Table of differences between Somatic and Germline mutations

FAQs

What is the difference between germline and somatic mutations?

Somatic mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in any cell apart from the germ cells (ovum or sperm). Germline mutations are alterations in a person’s DNA that occur in their germ cells, that is ova or sperm. 

What is the difference between somatic and germline gene therapy?

Somatic gene therapy is the transfer of a gene into somatic cells whereas germline gene therapy is the transfer of a gene into germ cells.

Is Down syndrome a germline mutation?

Down syndrome is a somatic mutation.

What is the difference between somatic and germline BRCA mutation?

Somatic BRCA mutations are BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations present in the somatic cells whereas germline BRCA mutations are BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in the germ cells.

What is the difference between germline and somatic mosaicism?

Germline mosaicism is the DNA mutation that occurs in gonads whereas somatic mosaicism is the mutation that occurs in the postzygotic stage of cells.

What are germline cells vs somatic cells?

Germline cells are ova and sperm whereas somatic cells are all the other cells of the body except germ cells.

What makes germline cells different from somatic cells?

Germ cells have half the chromosomes as somatic cells.

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References :


[0]Martincorena, I├▒igo, and Peter J. Campbell. "Somatic mutation in cancer and normal cells." Science 349.6255 (2015): 1483-1489.

[1]Cheng, Heather H., et al. "Germline and somatic mutations in prostate cancer for the clinician." Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network 17.5 (2019): 515-521.

[2]Smith, Miriam J. "Germline and somatic mutations in meningiomas." Cancer genetics 208.4 (2015): 107-114.

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