Chromosomes and Genes

show/hide words to know

  • Chromosome: long thread-like molecule made of the chemical called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that are held together with special proteins and are visible during cell division... more
  • Gene: a region of DNA where a specific set of instructions for one trait is kept. We get some of our genes from our mother and some from our father... more
  • Karyotype: an image of chromosomes which shows their shape, size and number.

Take a moment to consider how traits are passed from parent to offspring inside the cell. The information for the traits of an organism is stored in DNA, as genes on chromosomes. All living things have genes and chromosomes. Depending on the plant or animal the size and number of chromosomes are different. Think of chromosomes as giant set of instructions for living things.

Chromosomes two-by-two

Chromosomes come in matching pairs, one pair from each parent. Humans, for example, have a total of 46 chromosomes, 23 from the mother and another 23 from the father. With two sets of chromosomes, children inherit two copies of each gene, one from each parent. These copies may be identical or different.

The image below, call a karyotype, shows the chromosomes of a human, lined up in pairs. The only two chromosomes that do not always come in matching pairs are the sex chromosomes, X and Y. In humans, girls have two matching X chromosomes. Boys, however, have an additional Y chromosome and only one X chromosome. These chromosomes have genes that contain information relating to gender. By looking at the sex chromosomes in the image below, we can tell that the person this karyotype belongs to is male.

Male Human Chromosomes

 


 

References

Additional images and illustrations from Wikimedia.

 

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