Chromosome

Definition

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:

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.


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.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.