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From Anatomy In Motion

What is a chromosome?


By National Human Genome Research InstituteChromosomes are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Passed from parents to offspring, DNA contains the specific instructions that make each type of living creature unique.The term chromosome comes from the Greek words for color (chroma) and body (soma). Scientists gave this name to chromosomes because they are cell structures, or bodies, that are strongly stained by some colorful dyes used in research.What do chromosomes do?The unique structure of chromosomes keeps DNA tightly wrapped around spool-like proteins, called histones. Without such packaging, DNA molecules would be too long to fit inside cells. For example, if all of the DNA molecules in a single human cell were unwound from their histones and placed end-to-end, they would stretch 6 feet.For an organism to grow and function properly, cells must constantly divide to produce new cells to replace old, worn-out cells. During cell division, it is essential that DNA remains intact and evenly distributed among cells. Chromosomes are a key part of the process that ensures DNA is accurately copied and distributed in the vast majority of cell divisions. Still, mistakes do occur on rare occasions.Changes in the number or structure of chromosomes in new cells may lead to serious problems. For example, in humans, one type of leukemia and some other cancers are caused by defective chromosomes made up of joined pieces of broken chromosomes.It is also crucial that reproductive cells, such as eggs and sperm, contain the right number of chromosomes and that those chromosomes have the correct structure. If not, the resulting offspring may fail to develop properly. For example, people with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21, instead of the two copies found in other people.How many chromosomes do humans have?Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes.In fact, each species of plants and animals has a set number of chromosomes. A fruit fly, for example, has four pairs of chromosomes, while a rice plant has 12 and a dog, 39.How are chromosomes inherited?In humans and most other complex organisms, one copy of each chromosome is inherited from the female parent and the other from the male parent. This explains why children inherit some of their traits from their mother and others from their father.The pattern of inheritance is different for the small circular chromosome found in mitochondria. Only egg cells – and not sperm cells – keep their mitochondria during fertilization. So, mitochondrial DNA is always inherited from the female parent. In humans, a few conditions, including some forms of hearing impairment and diabetes, have been associated with DNA found in the mitochondria.MORE information here: http://www.genome.gov/26524120

From Anatomy In Motion

What is a chromosome?
By National Human Genome Research Institute

Chromosomes are thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Passed from parents to offspring, DNA contains the specific instructions that make each type of living creature unique.

The term chromosome comes from the Greek words for color (chroma) and body (soma). Scientists gave this name to chromosomes because they are cell structures, or bodies, that are strongly stained by some colorful dyes used in research.


What do chromosomes do?

The unique structure of chromosomes keeps DNA tightly wrapped around spool-like proteins, called histones. Without such packaging, DNA molecules would be too long to fit inside cells. For example, if all of the DNA molecules in a single human cell were unwound from their histones and placed end-to-end, they would stretch 6 feet.

For an organism to grow and function properly, cells must constantly divide to produce new cells to replace old, worn-out cells. During cell division, it is essential that DNA remains intact and evenly distributed among cells. Chromosomes are a key part of the process that ensures DNA is accurately copied and distributed in the vast majority of cell divisions. Still, mistakes do occur on rare occasions.

Changes in the number or structure of chromosomes in new cells may lead to serious problems. For example, in humans, one type of leukemia and some other cancers are caused by defective chromosomes made up of joined pieces of broken chromosomes.

It is also crucial that reproductive cells, such as eggs and sperm, contain the right number of chromosomes and that those chromosomes have the correct structure. If not, the resulting offspring may fail to develop properly. For example, people with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21, instead of the two copies found in other people.

How many chromosomes do humans have?

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes.

In fact, each species of plants and animals has a set number of chromosomes. A fruit fly, for example, has four pairs of chromosomes, while a rice plant has 12 and a dog, 39.

How are chromosomes inherited?

In humans and most other complex organisms, one copy of each chromosome is inherited from the female parent and the other from the male parent. This explains why children inherit some of their traits from their mother and others from their father.

The pattern of inheritance is different for the small circular chromosome found in mitochondria. Only egg cells – and not sperm cells – keep their mitochondria during fertilization. So, mitochondrial DNA is always inherited from the female parent. In humans, a few conditions, including some forms of hearing impairment and diabetes, have been associated with DNA found in the mitochondria.

MORE information here: http://www.genome.gov/26524120

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