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    Chromosome Experiments

    Chromosome Background Information


    Chromosomes are the parts of a cell which carry the genetic information. They are made up of DNA and protein. Each chromosome contains many genes.

    A gene is the basic unit of heredity in a living organism and determines a particular trait or function in an organism.


    Chromosomes are the parts of a cell which carry the genetic information. They are made up of DNA and protein. Each chromosome contains many genes. Chromosomes come in pairs: one from the mother; the other from the father. Cytologists label chromosomes with numbers.

    Chromosomes are present in every cell nucleus. This means they are found in all eukaryotes, since only eukaryotes have cell nuclei. When eukaryote cells divide, the chromosomes must also divide. When a somatic (body) cell (such as a muscle cell) divides, the process is called mitosis. Before mitosis, the cell copies all the chromosomes and then it can divide. When they duplicate, chromosomes look like the letter "X". They are called chromatids when they are doubled.

    There are 46 chromosomes in a human, 23 pairs. They include a pair of sex chromosomes. Everyone has a set of chromosomes from their father, and a matching set from their mother. To produce sex cells (gametes), the stem cells go through a different division process called meiosis. This reduces the 23 pairs (diploid) to 23 singles (haploid). These, when combined by fertilisation, produce the new set of 23 pairs.

    Different animals have different numbers of chromosomes. If a person does not have the usual number of chromosomes, they could die or have one or more peculiarities. For example, they could get a genetic disorder like Down syndrome (which is when there is an extra chromosome 21) and Klinefelter's syndrome (a male with two X chromosomes). Some genetic disorders are more common than others.

    Sex chromosomes are chromosomes which determine the sex of individual organisms. In man, for example, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes, and one of these pairs are sex chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes, males have one X and one Y. An egg always carries a single X, while sperms carry either an X or a Y. That is how sex is determined in humans. Not all organisms have their sex determined by chromosomes. Those that do use the sex chromosome system have variations in how it happens. The account above is generally true for mammals.

    DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid (pronounced dee-OX-ee-RYE-bow-new-CLAY-ik AH-sid)), is the molecule that contains the genetic code of all organisms. This includes animals, plants, and bacteria. It is also used by some viruses, which are not living organisms but use DNA to infect organisms. DNA is found in each cell in the organism and tells that cells what proteins to make. A cell's proteins determine its function. DNA is inherited by children from their parents. This is why children share traits with their parents, such as skin, hair and eye color. The DNA in a person is a combination of some of the DNA from each of his or her parents.

    Topics of Interest

    A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein that is found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions. The word chromosome comes from the Greek χρῶμα (chroma, color) and σῶμα (soma, body) due to their property of being very strongly stained by particular dyes.

    Chromosomes vary widely between different organisms. The DNA molecule may be circular or linear, and can be composed of 10,000 to 1,000,000,000 nucleotides in a long chain. Typically eukaryotic cells (cells with nuclei) have large linear chromosomes and prokaryotic cells (cells without defined nuclei) have smaller circular chromosomes, although there are many exceptions to this rule. Furthermore, cells may contain more than one type of chromosome; for example, mitochondria in most eukaryotes and chloroplasts in plants have their own small chromosomes.

    In eukaryotes, nuclear chromosomes are packaged by proteins into a condensed structure called chromatin. This allows the very long DNA molecules to fit into the cell nucleus. The structure of chromosomes and chromatin varies through the cell cycle. Chromosomes are the essential unit for cellular division and must be replicated, divided, and passed successfully to their daughter cells so as to ensure the genetic diversity and survival of their progeny. Chromosomes may exist as either duplicated or unduplicated—unduplicated chromosomes are single linear strands, whereas duplicated chromosomes (copied during synthesis phase) contain two copies joined by a centromere. Compaction of the duplicated chromosomes during mitosis and meiosis results in the classic four-arm structure. Chromosomal recombination plays a vital role in genetic diversity. If these structures are manipulated incorrectly, through processes known as chromosomal instability and translocation, the cell may undergo mitotic catastrophe and die, or it may aberrantly evade apoptosis leading to the progression of cancer.

    In practice "chromosome" is a rather loosely defined term. In prokaryotes and viruses, the term genophore is more appropriate when no chromatin is present. However, a large body of work uses the term chromosome regardless of chromatin content. In prokaryotes DNA is usually arranged as a circle, which is tightly coiled in on itself, sometimes accompanied by one or more smaller, circular DNA molecules called plasmids. These small circular genomes are also found in mitochondria and chloroplasts, reflecting their bacterial origins. The simplest genophores are found in viruses: these DNA or RNA molecules are short linear or circular genophores that often lack structural proteins.

    Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets in two nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly equal shares of these cellular components. Mitosis and cytokinesis together define the mitotic (M) phase of the cell cycle - the division of the mother cell into two daughter cells, genetically identical to each other and to their parent cell. This accounts for approximately 10% of the cell cycle.

    Meiosis is a process of reductional division in which the number of chromosomes per cell is cut in half. In animals, meiosis always results in the formation of gametes, while in other organisms it can give rise to spores. As with mitosis, before meiosis begins, the DNA in the original cell is replicated during S-phase of the cell cycle. Two cell divisions separate the replicated chromosomes into four haploid gametes or spores.

    Chromatin is the complex combination of DNA and protein that makes up chromosomes. It is found inside the nuclei of eukaryotic cells. It is divided between heterochromatin (condensed) and euchromatin (extended) forms. The major components of chromatin are DNA (Genetic Formula) and histone proteins, although many other chromosomal proteins have prominent roles too. The functions of chromatin are to package DNA into a smaller volume to fit in the cell, to strengthen the DNA to allow mitosis and meiosis, and to serve as a mechanism to control expression and DNA replication. Chromatin contains genetic material-instructions to direct cell functions. Changes in chromatin structure are affected by chemical modifications of histone proteins such as methylation (DNA and proteins) and acetylation (proteins), and by non-histone, DNA-binding proteins.

    A karyotype is the characteristic chromosome complement of a eukaryote species. The term may also be used of a cell, or an individual. The preparation and study of karyotypes is part of cytogenetics.

    A chromosome anomaly, abnormality or aberration reflects an atypical number of chromosomes or a structural abnormality in one or more chromosomes. A karyotype refers to a full set of chromosomes from an individual which can be compared to a "normal" karyotype for the species via genetic testing. A chromosome anomaly may be detected or confirmed in this manner. Chromosome anomalies usually occur when there is an error in cell division following meiosis or mitosis. There are many types of chromosome anomalies. They can be organized into two basic groups, numerical and structural anomalies.

    Aneuploidy is an abnormal number of chromosomes, and is a type of chromosome abnormality. An extra or missing chromosome is a common cause of genetic disorders (birth defects). Some cancer cells also have abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Aneuploidy occurs during cell division when the chromosomes don't separate properly between the two cells. Chromosome abnormalities occur in 1 of 160 live births, the most common being extra chromosomes 21, 18 and 13.

    Human chromosomes: Human cells have 23 pairs of large linear nuclear chromosomes, giving a total of 46 per cell. In addition to these, human cells have many hundreds of copies of the mitochondrial genome. Sequencing of the human genome has provided a great deal of information about each of the chromosomes. Below is a table compiling statistics for the chromosomes, based on the Sanger Institute's human genome information in the Vertebrate Genome Annotation (VEGA) database. Number of genes is an estimate as it is in part based on gene predictions. Total chromosome length is an estimate as well, based on the estimated size of unsequenced heterochromatin regions.

    In the fields of genetics and evolutionary computation, a locus (plural loci) is the specific location of a gene or DNA sequence on a chromosome. A variant of the DNA sequence at a given locus is called an allele. The ordered list of loci known for a particular genome is called a genetic map. Gene mapping is the process of determining the locus for a particular biological trait.

    The XY sex-determination system is the sex-determination system found in humans, most other mammals, some insects (Drosophila) and some plants (Ginkgo). In this system, females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), and are called the homogametic sex. Males have two distinct sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex. However, an opposite scheme is found in birds.

    Genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy. Genetic genealogy involves the use of genealogical DNA testing to determine the level of genetic relationship between individuals.

    In genetics, a deletion (also called gene deletion, deficiency, or deletion mutation) is a mutation (a genetic aberration) in which a part of a chromosome or a sequence of DNA is missing. Deletion is the loss of genetic material. Any number of nucleotides can be deleted, from a single base to an entire piece of chromosome. Deletions can be caused by errors in chromosomal crossover during meiosis. This causes several serious genetic diseases.

    Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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