Question Video: Describing Cells with Three or More Chromosome Copies Biology

A normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes in total, 23 inherited from the father and 23 inherited from the mother. Each group of 23 chromosomes is called a set of chromosomes. A normal human cell, therefore, has two sets of chromosomes. In some organisms, entire chromosome sets have been duplicated. What term is given to a cell in an organism that has more than two sets of chromosomes?

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Video Transcript

A normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes in total, 23 inherited from the father and 23 inherited from the mother. Each group of 23 chromosomes is called a set of chromosomes. A normal human cell, therefore, has two sets of chromosomes. In some organisms, entire chromosome sets have been duplicated. What term is given to a cell in an organism that has more than two sets of chromosomes?

This question is asking us about a situation where an organism contains more than two sets of chromosomes. Let’s review some terms related to chromosomal composition in order to answer this question correctly.

DNA in our cells is organized into structures called chromosomes. As mentioned in the question, human cells contain 46 chromosomes in total, or two sets of 23 chromosomes. You can see one chromosome pair here containing a single chromosome from each of the two sets. We get one set from our biological mother and the other from our biological father. This is true for most of the cells in our body. Cells that contain two copies of each chromosome are called diploid. The prefix di- in “diploid” means two.

However, not all cells in our body contain a diploid set of chromosomes. Our sex cells, like sperm or egg cells, contain only a single set. This is because once they combine during fertilization, the full diploid set is made. This is called a haploid number of chromosomes. Sometimes, an organism can contain more than two sets of chromosomes. Some organisms, for example, can have three sets of chromosomes. Organisms that have more than two sets of chromosomes are called polyploids. These organisms tend to have a lot of duplicated genetic information. And this is typically not tolerated in humans and can be detrimental. However, many plants are polyploid without issue.

To get back to our question, the term that is given to a cell in an organism that has more than two sets of chromosomes is polyploid.

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