AAT Bioquest

What are the differences between chromatin and chromosome?

Posted October 21, 2020


Chromatin is a lower order of DNA organization. The DNA double helix in the nucleus is packaged by special proteins called histones to form chromatin. Chromosomes are the higher order of DNA organization. They are formed by condensation of chromatin fibers. These are the key differences between chromatin and chromosomes:

Basis for comparisonChromatinChromosome
StructureComposed of histones and nucleosomes, which are a complex of DNA             Composed of condensed chromatin fibers
PresencePresent throughout the cell cycleClearly visible as condensed structures during cell division
Metabolic activityAllows DNA replication and RNA synthesisDoes not allow these processes – Main purpose is distribution of genetic information
AppearanceAppears as long, thin, uncoiled structures inside the nucleusAppears as thick, compact, ribbon-like coiled structures prominently visible during cell division
NucleoproteinForms the under-condensed part of nucleoproteinForms the condensed part of nucleoprotein
VisualizationVisualized through Electron microscopeVisualized through Light microscope
ConformationMay have open or compact conformations that are dynamically controlled during cell-cycle stagesPredominantly compact or heterochromatic state with fixed position in the nucleus
Additional resources

The Cell: A Molecular Approach- Chromosomes and Chromatin

Cell Meter™ Nuclear Apoptosis Assay Kit *Green Fluorescence Optimized for Flow Cytometry*