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Chromosome vs. Gene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 19, 2024
Chromosomes are long strands of DNA containing many genes; genes are segments of DNA encoding specific proteins.

Key Differences

Chromosomes are large, thread-like structures made of DNA and proteins, found in the nucleus of most living cells. They carry genetic information in the form of genes. Genes, on the other hand, are distinct sequences of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, essentially functioning as units of heredity. They determine specific characteristics by encoding proteins.
The human body has 23 pairs of chromosomes, totaling 46 per cell. Each chromosome contains hundreds to thousands of genes, which are responsible for different traits and functions. The relationship between chromosomes and genes is analogous to books (chromosomes) and their individual stories (genes).
Chromosomes are responsible for the overall organization and structure of DNA in a cell. They ensure DNA is correctly replicated and distributed during cell division. Genes, located on chromosomes, are responsible for the production of proteins through the processes of transcription and translation, influencing individual traits and cell functions.
Abnormalities in chromosomes can lead to genetic disorders, often due to an incorrect number of chromosomes (like in Down syndrome). Mutations in genes can also cause disorders, but these are typically related to specific protein malfunctions, such as in cystic fibrosis.
Chromosomes are visible under a microscope during certain stages of cell division. Genes, being much smaller, cannot be seen and are identified through molecular biology techniques, emphasizing their distinct physical nature within the cell.

Comparison Chart

Basic Structure

Long DNA strand with associated proteins
Segment of DNA encoding a protein


Nucleus of a cell
Located on a chromosome


Carries and organizes genetic information
Determines specific traits by coding for proteins

Number in Humans

23 pairs (46 total)
Approximately 20,000-25,000

Associated Disorders

Down syndrome (extra chromosome)
Cystic Fibrosis (gene mutation)

Chromosome and Gene Definitions


A thread-like structure found in the nucleus, made up of DNA tightly coiled many times.
During genetic testing, doctors analyze chromosomes for any abnormalities.


A segment of DNA responsible for a specific function or trait in an organism.
The gene for eye color determines whether someone has blue, green, or brown eyes.


A structure of nucleic acids and protein found in cells, carrying genetic information.
Humans typically have 46 chromosomes, which determine their genetic makeup.


The molecular unit of heredity which acts as instructions to make molecules called proteins.
A mutation in a gene can lead to a dysfunctional protein and result in a genetic disorder.


Long DNA molecules that contain the entirety of an organism's genetic information.
Chromosomes are duplicated during cell division to ensure each new cell receives genetic information.


Basic physical and functional unit of heredity, made up of DNA.
Genes passed from parents to children influence their physical and health characteristics.


Carriers of genes, grouped into structures within the cell nucleus.
Scientists study chromosomes to understand genetic diseases and inheritance.


A sequence of nucleotides in DNA that encodes the synthesis of a gene product.
Researchers are studying the BRCA1 gene for its role in breast cancer.


A DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material of an organism.
Chromosome abnormalities can lead to genetic disorders like Down syndrome.


A factor within a chromosome responsible for the inheritance and expression of a trait.
The gene for height can vary greatly, contributing to the diversity in human height.


A linear strand of DNA and associated proteins in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells that carries the genes and functions in the transmission of hereditary information.


A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and is transcribed into an RNA molecule that may function directly or be translated into an amino acid chain. Genes undergo mutation when their DNA sequences change.


A circular strand of DNA in bacteria and archaea that contains the hereditary information necessary for cell life.


(genetics) A theoretical unit of heredity of living organisms; a gene may take several values and in principle predetermines a precise trait of an organism's form (phenotype), such as hair color.


A linear arrangement of condensed DNA and associated proteins (such as chaperone proteins) which contains the genetic material (genome) of an organism.
Chromosomes store genetic information.


(molecular biology) A segment of DNA or RNA from a cell's or an organism's genome, that may take several forms and thus parameterizes a phenomenon, in general the structure of a protein; locus.
A change in a gene is reflected in the protein or RNA molecule that it codes for.


One of the minute bodies into which the chromatin of the nucleus is resolved during mitotic cell division; the idant of Weismann.


(genetics) a segment of DNA that is involved in producing a polypeptide chain; it can include regions preceding and following the coding DNA as well as introns between the exons; it is considered a unit of heredity;
Genes were formerly called factors


A threadlike body in the cell nucleus that carries the genes in a linear order


How many genes are in a human genome?

There are approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in the human genome.

What is a chromosome?

A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material of an organism.

What is the main function of chromosomes?

Chromosomes carry and organize genetic information within a cell.

How many chromosomes do humans have?

Humans typically have 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs.

Can chromosomes be seen under a microscope?

Yes, chromosomes can be visible under a microscope during certain cell division stages.

Are gene mutations always harmful?

Not all gene mutations are harmful; some are benign, and others can even be beneficial.

Can genes skip generations?

Yes, some genes can skip generations due to recessive inheritance patterns.

How are genes inherited?

Genes are inherited from both parents, with one copy of each gene coming from each parent.

What is a gene?

A gene is a segment of DNA that encodes the synthesis of a gene product, usually a protein.

What is the role of genes?

Genes determine specific traits and functions by coding for proteins.

Do chromosomes change during an individual's life?

Chromosomes remain largely the same, though DNA can undergo minor changes due to mutations.

Can lifestyle affect genes?

While lifestyle doesn't change genes, it can influence how genes are expressed.

Are all genes active at all times?

No, genes can be turned on or off depending on the needs of the cell or organism.

What causes Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.

What is a chromosome abnormality?

A chromosome abnormality occurs when there is a change in the number or structure of chromosomes.

What is gene therapy?

Gene therapy is a medical field which involves modifying genes to treat or prevent diseases.

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing involves analyzing DNA to identify changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins.

What is the Human Genome Project?

The Human Genome Project was an international research effort to sequence and map all the genes of the human genome.

Can two individuals have identical chromosomes?

Identical twins have nearly identical chromosomes, but two unrelated individuals typically have significant genetic differences.

How do genes affect health?

Genes can influence susceptibility to diseases, response to medications, and overall health.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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