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Chromosome

Chromosomes are structures found in the center (nucleus) of cells that carry long pieces of DNA. DNA is the material that holds genes. It is the building block of the human body.

Chromosomes also contain proteins that help DNA exist in the proper form.

Information

Chromosomes come in pairs. Normally, each cell in the human body has 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total chromosomes). Half come from the mother; the other half come from the father.

Two of the chromosomes (the X and the Y chromosome) determine your sex as male or female when you are born. They are called sex chromosomes:

  • Females have 2 X chromosomes.
  • Males have 1 X and 1 Y chromosome.

The mother gives an X chromosome to the child. The father may contribute an X or a Y. The chromosome from the father determines if the baby is born as male or female.

The remaining chromosomes are called autosomal chromosomes. They are known as chromosome pairs 1 through 22.

References

Chromosome. Taber's Medical Dictionary Online. www.tabers.com/tabersonline/view/Tabers-Dictionary/753321/all/chromosome?q=Chromosome&ti=0. Updated 2017. Accessed May 17, 2019.

Stein CK. Applications of cytogenetics in modern pathology. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 69.

Text only

  • Chromosomes and DNA

    Chromosomes and DNA - illustration

    Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 chromosomes in total. Chromosomes are made up of long strands of DNA, which contain all the body's genes.

    Chromosomes and DNA

    illustration

    • Chromosomes and DNA

      Chromosomes and DNA - illustration

      Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 chromosomes in total. Chromosomes are made up of long strands of DNA, which contain all the body's genes.

      Chromosomes and DNA

      illustration

     

    Review Date: 5/13/2019

    Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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