What Is the Purpose of Chromosomes?

purpose-chromosomes Credit: Science Photo Library - SCIEPRO/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Chromosomes assist in the process of cell division by distributing DNA. They act as a container to hold in the DNA molecules.

Every living creature relies on cell division for its existence. Cell division is essential for the organism to grow and function. In order for cell division to occur, new cells need to receive the genetic information contained in the DNA. Because DNA molecules are too large to fit inside the cells, chromosomes ensure that the DNA makes it to the cells by holding them in and keeping them attached to proteins known as histones.

If the structure of a chromosome changes before being transferred to the new cell, malformations can occur. Similarly, if the number of chromosomes is incorrect, it can create a genetic defect. Illnesses, such as cancer, may occur as a result of a defective chromosome. Down syndrome is an example of a condition that is caused by a chromosomal error. A person with Down syndrome has an extra copy of their 21st chromosome.

Genetic information is contained in the DNA and carried by the chromosomes. This material influences the traits and characteristics inherited by the offspring. Traits, such as flower color and seed shape, in plants are determined by this genetic information. In humans, the offspring inherits two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent. The combination of these sets determines characteristics like hair color, eye color, height, and gender. Information about gender is set by the X and Y chromosomes. Males have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome, while females have a pair of Y chromosomes.