Difference Between DNA and Chromosome

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Difference Between DNA and Chromosome: All of our genetic information is contained in a molecule called DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. It consists of two twisted strands connected by chemical base pairs. Adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C) are the four different kinds of bases. Similar to a code, the arrangement of these bases instructs our cells on how to assemble proteins, which carry out a variety of vital functions for our bodies.

Chromosomes are like the bookshelves in that library, keeping the DNA neatly organized. Each chromosome is a long strand of DNA tightly coiled around proteins called histones. Humans have 46 chromosomes in total, arranged in 23 pairs. One pair comes from each parent. The genes, which are the specific instructions for making proteins, are located along the chromosomes. So, chromosomes are kind of like folders containing different genes, and DNA is the text written inside those folders.

Difference Between DNA and Chromosomes:

Together, DNA and chromosomes make up our genome, which is like the complete instruction manual for building and running a human being. It's an amazing system that controls everything from our eye color to our susceptibility to diseases. Now let's understand the difference between DNA and Chromosomes.





Nucleic acid composed of nucleotides

Thread-like structures made of DNA and proteins


Found in the cell nucleus and mitochondria

Located in the cell nucleus


Genetic material carrying instructions for cellular functions

Carry genes and organize genetic information


Double helix structure (two strands)

Condensed and coiled DNA

Number in a Cell

Multiple DNA molecules in a cell

Varies by species; humans have 23 pairs


Passed from parent to offspring during reproduction

Passed from parent to offspring during reproduction


DNA replication occurs before cell division

Chromosomes replicate before cell division


Specific segments of DNA that code for proteins and traits

Contain genes, the functional units of heredity

Visible under a Microscope

Not visible under a light microscope

Visible under a light microscope during cell division

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What is DNA?

The molecule that contains the genetic information needed to create and sustain a creature is called DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. It is composed of smaller pieces known as nucleotides and is a long, twisted molecule. The genetic code is written in the nucleotide sequence, which is similar to the letters of a language. Proteins, which do the majority of the work in cells, are made by cells using instructions from their genetic code. There could be no life without DNA! 

Key Features of DNA:

  • DNA is made up of two strands twisted together in a double helix shape, resembling a spiral staircase. Each strand is a polymer of nucleotides, which consist of a sugar molecule, a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base. 
  • There are four different types of nitrogenous bases in DNA: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). These bases pair up specifically: A with T and G with C, forming the "rungs" of the DNA ladder. This specific pairing is crucial for DNA replication and transcription.
  • Genes are specific segments of DNA that code for functional products, like proteins or RNA molecules. Each gene has a unique sequence of nucleotides that determines its function. The human genome, for example, contains about 20,000 genes.
  • DNA can make copies of itself, ensuring the genetic information is passed on from one generation to the next. During cell division, the DNA strands unzip, and each strand serves as a template for building a new complementary strand.

What is Chromosome?

DNA is bundled into ordered structures called chromosomes in cells. They resemble X-shaped threads and are composed of histone proteins and DNA that has been tightly wound around one another. The 46 chromosomes in humans are divided into 23 pairs. Every parent has one pair. For cell division to occur and for each daughter cell to get a full set of genetic instructions, chromosomes are necessary. 

Key Features of Chromosome:

  • Humans typically have 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs. One pair is inherited from each parent. The sex chromosomes (XX for females and XY for males) determine sex. 
  • Each chromosome has a specific structure, with a centromere that divides the chromosome into two arms. The ends of the chromosomes are called telomeres, which protect the DNA from damage during cell division.
  • Chromosomes contain genes, along with large amounts of non-coding DNA that plays various roles, including regulating gene expression, providing structural support, and potentially harboring yet-undiscovered functions.
  • Chromosomes condense and replicate during cell division, ensuring each daughter cell receives a complete set of genetic instructions.

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Similarities between DNA and Chromosome

  • Genetic Information: The genetic information that defines an organism's characteristics is found in both DNA and chromosomes.
  • Made of DNA: DNA molecules make up the majority of the components of chromosomes.
  • Function in Inheritance: Chromosomes and DNA are essential for the transmission of features from one generation to the next.
  • Replication: To guarantee the transfer of genetic material during cell division, both DNA and chromosomes go through replication.
  • Nucleotides: The fundamental building blocks of genetic material, nucleotides make up both DNA and chromosomes.
  • Essential for Life: Chromosomes and DNA are necessary for the survival and proper operation of living things.

Although chromosomes and DNA are equally essential to life, their functions and subtle differences are vastly different. Consider DNA as the genetic code, the language of heredity, or as a thin thread containing the life-giving blueprint. Each rung of the twisted double strand structure has a pair of chemical bases, which represent the information. In contrast, chromosomes serve as the DNA's organizers—they are the robust containers that keep it safe. Imagine them as file cabinets, where the genetic material is carefully organised into discrete structures to ensure its safe transit throughout cell division. The key distinction is that chromosomes are the ordered structures that store and regulate information, whereas DNA is the information itself—the instructions. DNA coils around histone protein spools within chromosomes to produce a tight shape that is capable of effective replication and transmission to subsequent generations. Therefore, chromosomes offer the necessary file system, ensuring that the blueprint of life stays intact and accessible, even if DNA is the key to our features and functions.

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What is DNA, and how does it differ from chromosomes?

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) is a molecule that carries genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all known living organisms. Chromosomes, on the other hand, are structures composed of DNA and proteins, carrying genes. In essence, DNA is the molecular blueprint, while chromosomes are organized packages of DNA.

How are DNA and chromosomes similar in structure?

Both DNA and chromosomes consist of nucleotides. DNA is a long, double-stranded helical structure, and chromosomes are made up of condensed and coiled DNA strands. They share a fundamental structure based on the sequence of nucleotide bases adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G).

What is the relationship between genes and DNA?

Genes are segments of DNA that contain instructions for the synthesis of proteins or functional RNA molecules. DNA serves as the storage unit for genetic information, and genes are specific regions on the DNA that encode particular traits or characteristics.

How many chromosomes do humans have, and what is their role?

Humans typically have 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs. Chromosomes contain genes, which are the units of heredity. They carry the genetic information that determines an individual's traits, such as eye color, height, and susceptibility to certain diseases.

What are the differences between sex chromosomes and autosomes?

Sex chromosomes determine an individual's sex, with females having two X chromosomes (XX) and males having one X and one Y chromosome (XY). Autosomes are non-sex chromosomes, and they carry genes for general body characteristics.

Can changes occur in DNA and chromosomes, and what are the consequences?

Yes, mutations can occur in DNA, leading to changes in the genetic code. Chromosomal abnormalities, such as deletions or duplications, can also happen. These alterations can result in genetic disorders or contribute to variations in physical traits.