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 The Cell Nucleus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


By the mid 1700’s early microscope users had realized that living cells contain a light gray sap with a darker, denser globule floating about in the sap.  (This structure is easily noted in the images of the human cheek cells forming the borders of this page.) In 1831, Robert Brown used the word nucleus to describe the dark, central globule.  (The word nucleus is Latin for little nut.)   

The nucleus of most cells averages about 5 μm (.005 mm) in diameter.  It is surrounded by the nuclear envelope, a double membrane made of proteins and lipids that separates it from the cytoplasm. 

Early on in the microscopic study of cells, it was found that adding stains or dyes to thinly sliced tissue caused some structures inside cells to stand out.  The material in the nucleus absorbed stains so readily that it was named chromatin (from the Greek chroma = color.) (Click on blue thumbnail to see this effect.)

To the early observers, the chromatin appeared to be tiny granules or delicately intertwined threads scattered about inside the nucleus.  Today we know that chromatin is a complex of DNA and protein that forms exceedingly long, thin, entangled threads called chromosomes (from the Greek chroma = color + soma = body.)  Only when the nucleus prepares to divide do the chromosomes condense, becoming thick enough to be seen through a light microscope as separate structures.   

Each species has a characteristic number of chromosomes.  A human body cell (called a somatic cell) has 46 chromosomes in its nucleus.   A picture of the chromosomes of a cell taken during division can be cut out and arranged to make a picture called a karyotype.

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Contexo Home Page ] Introduction ] Basic Chemistry ] Cell Chemistry ] Cell Structure ] Mitochondria ] [ Cell Nucleus ] Chromosomes ] Mitosis ] Meiosis ] Proteins ] DNA ] DNA Replication ] Gene Expression ] Mutation ] Molecular Genealogy ] Collecting Your Own DNA ] Polymerase Chain Reation ] Primers ] DNA Sequencing ] How Microsatellite Repeats Are Counted ] YSTR Database Allele Frequency Charts ] Dorsey DNA Surname Project Home Page ] Links ]

This web is lovingly dedicated to the memory of
Mr. James Dorsey
who so graciously and enthusiastically
donated his DNA to solve our family mystery. 


Jim Dorsey
2/12/1930 — 4-30-2002

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