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Staining

In a living cell seen under
the microscope, it is often
difficult to see the nucleus

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When certain stains are applied, the
nucleus takes up the stain more
strongly than the cytoplasm does,
making the nucleus easily visible

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By means of some special techniques of
illumination, the nucleus and other structures
may be seen in the living cell.
But in this presentation and in most textbooks, the
nucleus is shown dark, as if it had been stained
It is the differences in chemical composition
between nucleus and cytoplasm that make one take
up a particular stain more strongly than the other

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Cell 1
nuclear
membrane
cytoplasm

In a cell which is not about to divide, the
structures in the nucleus are not distinct

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Cell 2

Just before cell division, thread-like
structures appear in the nucleus

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Cell 3

chromosomes

These structures are called chromosomes
They get shorter and thicker and take up
stains very strongly

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Cell 4

The shortening and thickening continues.
Now the chromosomes are seen to be
in pairs
To continue the sequence for cell division click here

Chromosome pairs

It may not be obvious from this illustration, but the
chromosomes are always in pairs. They are distinguished
by their size.

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9

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The chromosomes are always in pairs because one
of them is derived from the male parent and the
other from the female parent
Different species have different numbers and
shapes of chromosomes
Members of the same species have identical
sets of chromosomes

Chromosome numbers

kangaroo (6 pairs)

chicken (18 pairs)

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a sedge (21 pairs) hawkweed (4 pairs*)

fruit fly (4 pairs)

human (23 pairs)

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Although chromosomes can be seen distinctly
only at the time of cell division, they are present
and active all the time
The chromosomes carry the DNA
DNA controls all the chemical reactions in the cell
DNA also determines the species of organism
and its individual characteristics (See the
presentation on ‘DNA’ for more detail)

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Chromosomes and DNA
DNA

chromosome

protein
double helix

Chromosomes consist of DNA molecules supported
by a ‘scaffold’ of proteins. The diagram illustrates such
an arrangement but it is really more complex than this

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The DNA in the chromosomes carries the genes
Consequently, the genes are spaced out along
the chromosome
The genes consist of distinct stretches of the DNA
By means of their DNA content, the genes control
the activities of the cell, the type of cell it becomes,
the species of the organism and the individual
characteristics of that organism

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Chromosomes and genes
chromosome

genes for hair colour
single gene
genes for tallness
genes for eye colour
The diagram illustrates the relationship between chromosomes
and genes but it does not represent an actual chromosome.
The genes for these characteristics are not necessarily on the
same chromosome and the number of genes shown is arbitrary

Chromosomes and genes

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A

Because the chromosomes are in
pairs, the genes they carry are also
in pairs
Each member of a pair of genes comes
from either the male or the female
parent just as the chromosomes do
The individual genes of a pair, control
the same characteristic, e.g. B and b
could control eye colour; G and g could
control hair colour

a

B

b

C

c

D

d

E

e

F

f

G

g

H

h

I

I