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Metacentric Chromosomes vs. Submetacentric Chromosomes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 17, 2024
Metacentric chromosomes have a centrally located centromere, creating arms of equal length. Submetacentric chromosomes have an off-center centromere, creating arms of unequal length.

Key Differences

Metacentric chromosomes are characterized by a centromere that is positioned near the middle, resulting in two arms of equal length. In contrast, submetacentric chromosomes feature a centromere that is slightly off-center, which results in one arm being slightly longer than the other.
In metacentric chromosomes, the symmetric shape due to the central centromere facilitates equal division during cell replication. Submetacentric chromosomes, with their asymmetric arms, may have different segregation patterns due to their uneven arm lengths.
The identification of metacentric chromosomes is easier under a microscope due to their balanced structure. Conversely, submetacentric chromosomes are identified by the noticeable difference in the lengths of their arms.
Metacentric chromosomes are often found in the genomes of various species, including humans. Submetacentric chromosomes are also present in human genetics and play a distinct role in the overall genomic organization.
When it comes to genetic abnormalities, both metacentric and submetacentric chromosomes can be involved. However, the nature of these abnormalities may differ due to the structural differences in the chromosomes.

Comparison Chart

Centromere Position

Centrally located

Arm Length





Easier to identify
Harder to identify due to arm length difference


Common in many species
Also common, with distinct genomic roles

Metacentric Chromosomes and Submetacentric Chromosomes Definitions

Metacentric Chromosomes

Metacentric chromosomes contribute to the structural integrity of the genome.
The balance in metacentric chromosomes aids in the proper alignment during genetic sequencing.

Submetacentric Chromosomes

Submetacentric chromosomes have an off-center centromere, resulting in unequal arms.
Submetacentric chromosomes' unique structure aids in identifying specific genetic markers.

Metacentric Chromosomes

Metacentric chromosomes have a central centromere dividing them into two equal arms.
In karyotyping, metacentric chromosomes are easy to identify due to their symmetrical appearance.

Submetacentric Chromosomes

These chromosomes exhibit asymmetrical arm lengths.
In genetic studies, submetacentric chromosomes are noted for their longer and shorter arms.

Metacentric Chromosomes

These chromosomes are characterized by their balanced arm lengths.
Geneticists often examine metacentric chromosomes for mutations due to their equal arm length.

Submetacentric Chromosomes

Submetacentric chromosomes play a role in genetic variation.
The uneven arms of submetacentric chromosomes contribute to diverse gene distribution.

Metacentric Chromosomes

Metacentric chromosomes maintain genetic stability during cell division.
The equal division of metacentric chromosomes during mitosis ensures accurate DNA replication.

Submetacentric Chromosomes

Submetacentric chromosomes are involved in specific genetic functions due to their structure.
Research in genetics often explores how submetacentric chromosomes affect gene expression.

Metacentric Chromosomes

They are a common chromosome type across different species.
Metacentric chromosomes are found in both humans and animals, indicating a broad biological presence.

Submetacentric Chromosomes

They are identifiable by their distinct arm length difference.
Chromosome mapping often focuses on submetacentric chromosomes for their unique asymmetry.


Do submetacentric chromosomes affect genetic functions?

Yes, their structure can influence specific genetic functions and variations.

What is the primary difference between metacentric and submetacentric chromosomes?

The primary difference lies in the centromere position; it's central in metacentric chromosomes and off-center in submetacentric chromosomes.

Can abnormalities occur in metacentric chromosomes?

Yes, abnormalities can occur, affecting genetic stability.

How does the asymmetry of submetacentric chromosomes affect genetic studies?

It aids in identifying specific genetic markers and variations.

Can metacentric chromosomes be found in all species?

They are common across various species, including humans and animals.

What makes submetacentric chromosomes unique?

Their unique feature is the asymmetrical arms due to the off-center centromere.

How are metacentric chromosomes identified?

They are identified by their symmetrical arms of equal length.

Are metacentric chromosomes common in humans?

Yes, they are common and play a vital role in human genetics.

Do metacentric chromosomes have any specific role in cell division?

Their symmetrical structure ensures stability during cell division.

What is the significance of the longer arm in submetacentric chromosomes?

It may contain specific genes and markers important for genetic research.

Are submetacentric chromosomes easily visible under a microscope?

They can be identified due to the noticeable difference in arm lengths.

Is the genetic stability of metacentric chromosomes higher than submetacentric?

They generally provide more genetic stability due to their symmetrical structure.

Can submetacentric chromosomes be used as genetic markers?

Yes, their unique structure makes them useful as genetic markers.

Do metacentric chromosomes play a role in evolutionary biology?

Yes, their presence and structure can provide insights into evolutionary biology.

How are metacentric and submetacentric chromosomes studied in genetics?

They are studied through techniques like karyotyping, sequencing, and genetic mapping.

Does the uneven arm length of submetacentric chromosomes pose challenges?

It can pose challenges in certain genetic analyses and sequencing.

Are submetacentric chromosomes involved in chromosomal disorders?

Yes, like metacentric chromosomes, they can also be involved in chromosomal disorders.

How are metacentric chromosomes important in karyotyping?

Their symmetrical appearance makes them easier to identify in karyotyping.

Are there any diseases linked to metacentric chromosome abnormalities?

Certain genetic disorders may be linked to abnormalities in these chromosomes.

How does the centromere position in submetacentric chromosomes affect cell division?

It may influence the segregation pattern of chromosomes during cell division.
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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