728x90

Chromosome

In the nucleus of each cell, the DNA molecule is packaged into thread-like structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones that support its structure.

Chromosomes are not visible in the cell’s nucleus—not even under a microscope—when the cell is not dividing. However, the DNA that makes up chromosomes becomes more tightly packed during cell division and is then visible under a microscope. Most of what researchers know about chromosomes was learned by observing chromosomes during cell division.

Each chromosome has a constriction point called the centromere, which divides the chromosome into two sections, or “arms.” The short arm of the chromosome is labeled the “p arm.” The long arm of the chromosome is labeled the “q arm.” The location of the centromere on each chromosome gives the chromosome its characteristic shape, and can be used to help describe the location of specific genes.

Genes are arranged in precise arrays all along the length of 23 pairs of much larger structures: the chromosomes. One chromosome in each pair comes from the mother and the other one from the father. The chromosomes in any particular pair look like each other, except in a boy. There is one pair of chromosomes, which usually settles the sex of the individual. This pair has two X chromosomes in females and one X and one Y chromosome in males. This XY sex-determination system is found in most mammals as well as some reptiles and plants.

Whether a person has XX or XY chromosomes is determined when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Unlike the body’s other cells, the cells in the egg and sperm — called gametes or sex cells — possess only one chromosome. Gametes are produced by meiosis cell division, which results in the divided cells having half the number of chromosomes as the parent, or progenitor, cells. In the case of humans, this means that parent cells have two chromosomes and gametes have one.

During fertilization, gametes from the sperm combine with gametes from the egg to form a zygote. The zygote contains two sets of 23 chromosomes, for the required 46.

All of the gametes in the mother’s eggs possess X chromosomes. The father’s sperm contains about half X and half Y chromosomes. The sperm are the variable factor in determining the sex of the baby. If the sperm carries an X chromosome, it will combine with the egg’s X chromosome to form a female zygote. If the sperm carries a Y chromosome, it will result in a male.


 

728x90