That Damn X-Factor Gene and the Magnus Clan

In partnership with Frøya, our resident "Sinister in Training" of the Marvel.com X-Board, we think we have finally worked out what the "X-Factor" gene is:

Basically, there have to actually be two different factors coming together to make a mutant.

First of all, it is obvious that mutations in the 616 are more than a single point mutations, more than single gene being different. For example, Quicksilver (had) denser bones and muscle tissues, tendons and ligaments like steel cords, higher metabolism, greater neural synapse firing rates, etc. just to run fast. (This according to the Hand Book of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition-1984). That’s a lot more than just one gene, that’s hundreds, maybe thousands. So there are more genes in play than just one “X-Factor gene”.

Looking at Quicksilver, it also is interesting that his and his father's abilities are quite different from one another. Wanda's powers are energy based and so might conceivably come from Magnus. But Pietro's are entirely physical, so they probably have come from another source: his human mother. It is necessary to do some work to find people who are responsible for Magneto's abilities.

So if Magda had the genes, why wasn't she a mutant?

There is also the issue of Magneto himself. His parents were (apparently) baseline humans, so how did he become the “Master of Magnetism”?

What Frøya and I theorized was that in a situation where two human parents produces a mutant child, two sets of genes are in play. The first is the set of genes that “describes” what the mutant power would be, if you will. That tells the body what kind of mutant power they will have. The second set is a "Regulator gene". Something that switches that former set of “Description genes”, the genes of the actual mutation, on.

This “Regulator gene” would be the “X-Factor” gene Charles and everyone is always blathering on about: Not the gene that dictates the type of powers one has, but a single gene that turns those "Description genes" on.

The easiest way to think about this is that one parent contributes the "Description genes" and the other the X-Factor “Regulator gene". But nothing in genetics is simple. If one parent is contributing the regulator genes and the other the activator genes, then all Magnus and Magda’s children would be mutants who control magnetism, but that is obviously not the case. Crack open those college biology books, here’s where it gets complicated.

Remember Gregor Mendel and his pea plants, right? Looking at it as a simple Punnet square scenario: "X” equals the Activator gene and "O" equals theat gene not being present.

Think about as the "X" equaling an "On" switch and the "O" equals a exactly that: Nothing. Two "on switches", "On/On" or "X/X,  means Description genes being “switched on”, as does "On/nothing" or X/O. But "Nothing/Nothing" would mean there was nothing to turn those Decription genes on. 

When two baseline human parents produce a mutant child, one parent contributes the Description genes, the other the X-factor gene. The XO children would be a “Homo sapiens superior”. The "00" child may have the genes that may tell the body what kind of mutant power they may have, but have no natural way for them to be turned on.

In the case of Magnus’ parents, the genetic math would look something like this:

  O O
X XO XO
O OO OO

Magnus would be the "XO" child. His sister, obviously a teenager at the time of her death yet not a mutant (or at least Magnus never mentioned it), would have been the child with "OO".

When you get to Magnus’ children, you would have Magnus as XO and Magda as OO. And the math would look something like this:

  O O
X XO XO
O OO OO

The "XO"'s would be the twins who both have the Description genes which tell their bodies what kind of mutant powers they have, and the Regulator gene that turns them on. Assuming Anya was a baseline human (she had not reached adolescence yet, so we are not sure), she would have been "OO". She may have the genes that tell her body what type of mutant powers she had, but she does not have the right combination of Regulator/X-Factor genes that turns them on.

Adding the Description genes into the mix would be incredibly complex, as we are not talking about a single genes, but packets of hundreds to possibly millions of genes and I don't want to give anyone a headache. But in a very simplistc view Magneto's parents would look something like this:

  OM O\
X\ XOM\ XO\\
O\ OOM\ OO\\

"X" and "O" you are familiar with. the "M" is the packet of decription genes that dictate the adpatations of Magneto's body that allow him to control electromagnetism. The "\" indicates a lack of those genes. Magneto was the "XOM\" kid.

Now it gets really complex. For Magneto and Magda's children, it might look something like this:

  OW OP
X\ XOW\ XOP\
OM OOMW OOMP

"M" is the packet of genes that diactates the power over electomagenetism, "W" is Wanda's reality warping abilities. "P" is Pietro's physical adpatations to run fast. Wanda would be the "XOW\", Pietro would be the "XOP\", both of them having the X-Factor gene and their descrioptive genes that govern their individual mutations. Anya would be either the "OOMW" or OOMP" kid, carrying the genes to be a mutant, but without the X-Factor gene to turn them on.

Another way it could have worked is like this:

  OW OP
XM XOMW XOMP
O\ OOW\ OOP\

But in this scenario we would have to either discuss some descriptor genes being recessive to others or how these packets of genes are interacting with one another. For instance Pietro's "XOMP" means he is carrying both his speed abilities AND Magneto's control over electromagnetism. So how does that all work?

Well, that's a question for Hank McCoy. We simply don't know enough.

(And if you really want to twist your mind into a knot, start thinking how Secondary Mutations fit into all this. And where did the time traveling abilities he recently had and then lost come from?)

To bring it back not only to simple terms but to real genetics, the X-Factor gene does have a real life human analog in the "Sry" gene on the Y-chromosome. This is the gene that tells the genetic code of a genderless fetuses to grow into a male. It swtiches all of those genes that make the penis and testes, facial and chest hair, etc. on.

So in the case of M-Day, Wanda did not remove the genes that dictate what type of mutant they will be. She just removed the Regulatory/X-Factor gene. This also explains non-mutant superheroes and why Bruce Banner can stand in the middle of an intense gamma blast and become the Hulk rather than dying in a horrific way. The radiation acted as a mutagen and activated his dormant mutant Descriptor genes, turning him into the Hulk. Same with Spider Man's radioactive spider, and the Fantastic Four's cosmic rays. They all had the potential to be mutants, but lacked the X-Factor gene. Various forms of external radiation turned those genes on instead.

Hence the reason new, non-mutant superhero's can still emerge. That basic programming that say what type of super powers a person may have is still in the population. Wanda only removed that natural means of activating that, but it still can be activated in artificially.

Unfortunately, this also shoots down Beast's statement to Jamie in the Endangered Species One Shot that breeding programs wouldn't work. As distasteful as it is, since the Description genes are still present in the general population, spreading the X-Factor gene as far and wide would in fact help bring the mutant species back from the edge of extinction.

In the 616, Celestials supposedly placed the capacity for mankind to develop super-powered beings in the human genome a million years ago. So why, barring a few rare examples, did they suddenly "turn on" in the last generation? What we theorize is that the Celestials placed the set of genes governing types of super powers in some members of one population, such as the European population. And then placed the Regulator/X-Factor gene in some members of another population, such as the Asian, African or Native American populations. As the world has grown smaller and more inter-ethnic marriages are taking place, the "Description genes" and the X-Factor "Regulator gene" are finally coming in contact with one another. In fact, one set of genes in the European population and the X-Factor gene in the Asian/Native American population would explain why the preponderance of mutants have shown up in the United States.

So put this all together, and we know why Magneto’s grandchild Luna was born a normal baseline human, yet could gain her empathic abilities from Terrigen Mists. Inhumans are not born with superpowers, their powers come from being exposed to the Terrigen Mists. The X-Factor/Activator gene is not in the Inhuman population, and in a 50/50 genetic coin toss, Peitro did not pass it on. But they both could pass on the Regulator genes, what type of mutation Luna would have. The Terrigen Mists acted as a mutagen, same as the Hulk’s gamma ray burst or the FF’s cosmic rays, switching Luna’s empathic abilities on.

Addendum: Note from Alara Rogers (crossposted from "Alara's Magneto Site"):

It has come to my attention that there have been accusations that KiplingKat has plagiarized my theory about mutant genetics -- specifically, that all human beings in the Marvel Universe contain the genes for superpowers, but that the mutant X-Factor is a gene or complex of genes that activates said superpowers.

It is true that KiplingKat came up with the same theory about 15 years after I did and about 10 years after I first posted it (approximately). It is also true that KiplingKat has visited my site and may have read my material. However, it is also true that I based my theory on the behavior in the Marvel Universe of mutant powers, "altered human" (non-mutant superheroes whose genes were altered) powers, and events such as Chris Claremont's "The Gift" in which Loki magically grants humans their "latent" superpowers. Anyone who read the same material I did could have come up with the same ideas.

Moreover, there were unique features to my theory that KiplingKat did not replicate. For instance, I speculated that "altered humans" *are* in fact mutants, that the allele of X-Factor they possess is one that is not the ordinary human allele but activates powers in the presence of a chemical or radioactive stressor, and that it easily mutates into X-Factor in the sex cells, explaining why "altered humans" and "latent humans" (humans who father or bear mostly mutant children according to Chris Claremont) have mostly mutant kids. I speculated that X-Factor in particular alters the brain structure to produce a unique brainwave, but that both X-Factor and the "altered/latent human" allele are equally mutations, so that technically Spider-Man is as much a mutant as Magneto. None of these features appeared in KiplingKat's theory. She did not use similar language to describe her ideas except where genetics theory demanded it, she did not use similar examples, and she did not include some of the more unusual features of my theory.

It is therefore my opinion that KiplingKat came up with her theory independently, or read my work a sufficiently long time ago that she sincerely did not remember that I had created a similar theory. I consider her work a validation of mine, proof that someone besides me can look at Marvel's handling of mutant and superhuman powers and come to the same conclusion as me. I do not consider it plagiarism and I would ask that no one accuse her of plagiarizing me or attack her on my behalf.

And here is a link to Alara's theory.