<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The structure of chromosomes

Billions of cells in the human body divide every day. During the synthesis phase (S, for DNA synthesis) of interphase, the amount of DNA within the cell precisely doubles. Therefore, after DNA replication but before cell division, each cell actually contains two copies of each chromosome. Each copy of the chromosome is referred to as a sister chromatid    and is physically bound to the other copy. The centromere    is the structure that attaches one sister chromatid to another. Because a human cell has 46 chromosomes, during this phase, there are 92 chromatids (46 × 2) in the cell. Make sure not to confuse the concept of a pair of chromatids (one chromosome and its exact copy attached during mitosis) and a homologous pair of chromosomes (two paired chromosomes which were inherited separately, one from each parent) ( [link] ).

A homologous pair of chromosomes with their attached sister chromatids

This image shows a pair of chromosomes. The major parts such as the homologous chromosomes, kinetochore and the sister chromatids are labeled.
The red and blue colors correspond to a homologous pair of chromosomes. Each member of the pair was separately inherited from one parent. Each chromosome in the homologous pair is also bound to an identical sister chromatid, which is produced by DNA replication, and results in the familiar “X” shape.

Mitosis and cytokinesis

The mitotic phase    of the cell typically takes between 1 and 2 hours. During this phase, a cell undergoes two major processes. First, it completes mitosis, during which the contents of the nucleus are equitably pulled apart and distributed between its two halves. Cytokinesis then occurs, dividing the cytoplasm and cell body into two new cells. Mitosis is divided into four major stages that take place after interphase ( [link] ) and in the following order: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. The process is then followed by cytokinesis.

Cell division: mitosis followed by cytokinesis

This tabular image shows the different stages of mitosis and cytokinesis using both drawings and text. The top panel is a series of schematics for each step, followed by text listing the important aspects of that step. The bottom panel shows fluorescent micrographs for the corresponding stage.
The stages of cell division oversee the separation of identical genetic material into two new nuclei, followed by the division of the cytoplasm.

Prophase is the first phase of mitosis, during which the loosely packed chromatin coils and condenses into visible chromosomes. During prophase, each chromosome becomes visible with its identical partner attached, forming the familiar X-shape of sister chromatids. The nucleolus disappears early during this phase, and the nuclear envelope also disintegrates.

A major occurrence during prophase concerns a very important structure that contains the origin site for microtubule growth. Recall the cellular structures called centrioles that serve as origin points from which microtubules extend. These tiny structures also play a very important role during mitosis. A centrosome    is a pair of centrioles together. The cell contains two centrosomes side-by-side, which begin to move apart during prophase. As the centrosomes migrate to two different sides of the cell, microtubules begin to extend from each like long fingers from two hands extending toward each other. The mitotic spindle    is the structure composed of the centrosomes and their emerging microtubules.

Get the best Anatomy & Physiology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Anatomy & Physiology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask