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Difference Between Chromatin and Chromosome

Last updated date: 25th Feb 2024
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Chromatin and Chromosome Difference: Introduction

Normally, people are only familiar with DNA as the carrier of genetic information. But, is DNA the only one? As a biology student, such questions should always float around in your mind. Why? Because they are tricky and asked in NEET often. So, what are these other carriers of genetic information? They are- chromatin and chromosomes.

Do you know anything about the two? If not, read the difference between chromatin and chromosome, in the article below. Not only that, but you can also get hold of some important terms related to chromatin and chromosomes. So, delve into the article and learn for yourself!

What is Chromatin and Chromosome?

To explain the difference between chromatin and chromosome, one needs to explain chromatin and chromosome, first. Addressing this issue, you'll find a brief and concise definition for each- chromatin and chromosome, in the below write-up:


Chromatin is a complex that's formed by nucleic acids (RNA, DNA) and proteins, put together. It is the uncondensed, dynamic DNA form that's present within the nucleus. The processes that chromatin helps in are- DNA packaging, genome stability, and gene expression regulation. If the structure of chromatin is modified, one can control gene activity. The factors that influence chromatin's structure modification include epigenetic modifications, etc.


Chromosomes are found in the cell nucleus. They are condensed structures made of DNA and proteins. The genetic information they carry is expressed in the form of genes. These help in essential processes like DNA replication, cell division, and inheritance. If there are any changes made to the chromosome's structure, it leads to genetic disorders. At times, the overall functioning of the cell is also affected.

Difference Between Chromatin and Chromosome

It's not unlikely that you get confused between chromosomes and chromatin. But, there's good news! What? Just by going through the table below, you can understand every difference between chromatin and chromosome:







Uncondensed, disorganized DNA and proteins

Condensed, organized DNA structures



DNA, histones, non-histone proteins

DNA and proteins (histones)



Facilitates DNA packaging and gene regulation

Carries genetic information



Not visible under a microscope

Visible under a microscope



Present throughout the cell cycle

Present during cell division



Multiple chromatin strands per cell

Humans have 46 chromosomes



Spread throughout the nucleus

Located in the nucleus



Replication can occur independently

Replicates during cell division


Gene Expression

Transcription depends on chromatin structure

Can be actively transcribed



Dynamic and flexible structures

Stable structures



Loosely packed and accessible

Tightly coiled and compacted



Chromatin can vary in structure and composition within the nucleus

Different chromosomes have distinct sizes and gene content



More accessibility for transcription and regulation

Specific regions may be inaccessible or silenced



Formed by DNA wrapping around histones

Formed during cell division



Gene regulation is influenced by the chromatin state

Can be regulated independently



DNA repair mechanisms act on chromatin

Can undergo repair processes



Requires special techniques for visualization

Stained with dyes or using techniques like karyotyping



Altered chromatin structure can impact gene expression and cellular function

Chromosomal abnormalities can lead to genetic disorders

Important Terms: Characteristics of Chromatin and Chromosome

When it comes to genetic material like- chromatin and chromosome, there are a lot of different terms that are involved. Some that are important can be understood below:

  • Chromatin Remodeling: To regulate gene expression, chromatin (not a static structure) undergoes- remodeling. This dynamic process, very important for both gene expression and cellular differentiation is called chromatin remodeling. 

  • Chromosome Territories: The spatial domain that every chromosome occupies inside the nucleus are termed chromosome territories. It affects both- chromosomal interactions and gene expression patterns. 

  • Chromosomal Imprinting: At times, certain genes are expressed differently depending on whether someone inherited them from a father or mother. This epigenetic phenomenon is called imprinting. It is responsible for many diseases and developmental disorders. 

  • Chromosome Banding Patterns: The specific patterns that scientists stain and analyze to identify genetic abnormalities are the chromosomal banding patterns.


The above article discusses all the difference between chromatin and chromosome. Everything you need to know, you'll get there, anything from gene expression, composition, replication, to replication, occurrence, etc. Not only their differences, but the article also discusses the characteristics of chromatin and chromosome through some important terms. Therefore, once you have read the above article, you'll have no trouble when you want to explain chromosome and chromatin

FAQs on Difference Between Chromatin and Chromosome

1. How to differentiate between chromosomes, chromatids, and chromatin?

All three- chromosomes, chromatids, and chromatin are interrelated but different. They follow the hierarchy where one forms the other. Here chromatin is a substance that's found inside the nucleus of the cell. The primary elements of chromatin's composition are-  proteins and DNA. Then the chromosome is the condensed form of chromatin, it's formed during cell division. Lastly, for a chromatid to be formed, the chromosome shows splitting and forms two identical strands. These strands are chromatids, later they form a new chromosome in a new cell.

2. Is chromatin another name for a chromosome?

No. Chromatin is not the other name for chromosomes. Although related, both chromatin and chromosomes are distinct. Here chromatin is a complex found inside the cell nucleus. It is formed of RNA, DNA, and proteins. It's genetic material but in an uncoiled and dispersed form. Whereas chromosomes are visible and condensed structures that are formed after chromatin coils (during cell division).

3. How many chromatids make a chromosome?

Typically, a chromosome is composed of a single chromatid or a pair of sister chromatids. When the cell undergoes the cell cycle, it starts preparing for division, here the chromatin condenses to form distinct structures called chromosomes. Every chromosome formed has either one or two chromatids. These are copies of DNA molecules, through replication. In the end, the chromatid number per chromosome is completely dependent on the stage the cell cycle is in.