Difference Between Chromatin and Chromosomes


Main Difference

The main difference between Chromatin and Chromosomes is that Chromatin consists of unwinding DNA, whereas Chromosomes comprised of tightly packed DNA.

Chromatin vs. Chromosomes

DNA molecule is packed by the histone protein to form a complex structure known as chromatin. Complex DNA chromatin gets more condensed to form the structures that are called chromosomes. Chromatin is always found in the unpaired form. Chromosomes are always found in paired form, and our genetic content also counts in terms of chromosomes pairs. Approximately diameter of chromatin is 10nm. Chromosomes contain about 10,000 times more condensed and compact DNA. Chromatin is a thin, uncoiled long structure of nucleic acid. Chromosomes are thick and ribbon-shaped.


Chromatin is indulged in DNA replication, RNA synthesis process, and other recombination processes. Chromosomes are allowing the refractory of all such processes. The double-helical structure of DNA is packed in the proteins to form chromatin, which is further condensed to form chromosomes. However, the compact structure of DNA i.e., chromosomes, acts as genes to carry the genetic information. Chromatin is also known as the loose form of genetic material. Chromosomes are the compact form of genetic material.

In chromatin, DNA exists in dispersed form and exhibit threads like structure. In chromosomes, DNA exists in a folded and coiled form. In chromatin, DNA is present in a long and thin form. In chromosomes, DNA is present in a shorter and thick form. During interphase, polynucleosomal structure appears that is chromatin. During prophase, chromatids start to appear to form chromosomes. Chromatin is made up of double-helical DNA structure, special binding proteins, and RNA, as chromatin consists of histone protein; hence it is said as the protein layer coating of chromosomes. Chromosomes consist of chromatin.


Comparison Chart

The unraveled structure of DNA is known as chromatin.Highly condensed structures of DNA are known as chromosomes.
A string with beadsFour arms structure
Composed Of
NucleosomesChromatin fibers
50 times condensed10,000 times condensed
Throughout the cell cycleDuring metaphase anaphase
Shows metabolic activityDoesn’t show metabolic activity
Easily Visualization By
Electron microscopeLight microscope

What is Chromatin?

In eukaryotic organisms, a double-helical DNA structure is kept by structure i.e., chromatin, which is comprised of protein and RNA also. Basically, chromatin is for the packaging of long strand DNA inside the nucleus. In addition to this, chromatin also plays a role in the regulation of gene expression and also allows the replication of DNA. Chromatin also plays an important role in the protection of DNA and protects the DNA from any damage. Histone proteins contribute to binding the DNA accurately. Chromatin is made up of nucleosomes. Nucleosomes are core particles that are interconnected with the help of linker DNA.

The core particle nucleosomes are formed by 150-200 meter long DNA strand wrapping around the core of eight histone proteins. The linker DNA contains about twenty to sixty base pairs and H1 histone protein, which binds at the entry and exit of DNA nucleosomes. Nucleosomes combine with H1 histone protein is known as “chromatosome.” The main function of the chromatosome is to provide the exact structure to the DNA. The structure of chromatin appears as the beads on a string that folds nucleosomes into about 250nm fiber.

Chromatin shows during the interphase of the cell cycle. During interphase of the cell cycle, there are two types of chromatin i.e., euchromatin and heterochromatin. In the case of euchromatin, a genome that contains the gene is actively expressed. While in the case of heterochromatin, the genome contains the inactive form of DNA during its chromosomal stages. Further, two types of heterochromatin are classified i.e., constitutive heterochromatin and facultative heterochromatin.

What are Chromosomes?

Chromosomes are the highly condensed structure of DNA double-helical structure with binding proteins. A genome contains the set of chromosomes one set or more than one set of chromosomes. Copies of the same chromosome are known as homologous chromosomes pairs. Humans contain about 23 pairs of chromosomes i.e., 46 chromosomes in their genome. These 23 pairs contain 20 autosomes chromosomes and only 2 sex chromosomes. Each chromosome comprised of the gene in which 10,000 times larger double strand of DNA is packed.

Prokaryotic organisms possess a single circular chromosome present in the nucleoid. Eukaryotic organisms possess many large different numbers of pairs of chromosomes. In addition to genes, chromosomes also contain centromeres, telomeres, and the origin of replication. At the origin of replication, replication of DNA is initiated. After the initiation of replication, it enters the phase of the cell division of the cell cycle. After the replication process, two sister chromatids of chromosomes begin to appear, which are held together via the help of centromere. Proteins like kinetochores are associated with the centromere, which facilitates the separation of daughter chromosomes into two cells.

Chromosomes consist of arms one is long, and the other is short. Long-arm is known as q arm, and a short arm is known as p arm. Ending points of a chromosome don’t replicate and act as telomeres. In the end, telomeres present the genes from damage. The four arms of chromosomes depend on the position of the centromere. This centromere may be telocentric, sub-metacentric, acrocentric, and metacentric. To study chromosomes, the nuclear division appears during metaphase.

Key Differences

  1. Chromatin is comprised of nucleosomes, whereas chromosomes are consist of compact chromatin fibers.
  2. Chromatin is present in unpaired fibers form; on the other hand, chromosomes are present in the form of paired arms.
  3. In chromatin, DNA is unfolded; conversely, in chromosomes, DNA is coiled or folded.
  4. DNA is present in long-form in case of chromatin; on the flip side, DNA is present in shorter form in case of chromosomes.
  5. Chromatin is an uncoiled structure, while chromosomes are ribbon-like structures.
  6. Chromatin is thin and lightly compact, although chromosomes are thick and highly condensed.
  7. Chromatin possesses the less condensed structure of DNA as compared to chromosomes, which posses highly condensed DNA.
  8. Chromatin appears during the whole cell cycle comparatively to the chromosomes.
  9. Chromatic allows metabolic activity. However, chromosomes allow the refractory of the metabolic processes, and itself doesn’t show any metabolic activity.
  10. The diameter of chromatin is 10 nm; on the other side, chromosomes are up to thousands of nanometer.


It is concluded that chromatin is a lower-order DNA organization, and chromosomes are higher-order DNA organization.

Janet White

Janet White is a writer and blogger for Difference Wiki since 2015. She has a master's degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University. Apart from work, she enjoys exercising, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Connect with her on Twitter @Janet__White