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Do the 46 human chromosomes form a single unbroken DNA helix? Or is it rather that a human's genome consists of 46 disconnected helices?

If it is the former, does the common numbering scheme for the chromosomes have any correlation to their actual ordering in the one large strand?

If is the latter, is there a convention on how the chromosomes are ordered in genomic datasets? Also, is there a clear understanding of how sister chromosomes "find" each other in Meiosis I?

Generally, during periods when Mitosis/Meiosis are not occurring, what's a good physical picture for how the chromosomes are physically arranged (e.g. a bowl of 46 spaghetti noodles, or maybe the sister chromosomes always stay close together, etc)


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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Each chromosome is a distinct, separate DNA molecule. A chromosome of an eukariotic cell nucleus is a (long) linear molecule and so has two ends, which are called telomeres. DNA naturally forms double helix, and the molecules can further curl in what are called supercoils.

In humans, the chromosomes occur in 23 pairs (totaling 46). Except for the sex chromosome pair, each member of the pair is identical in appearance in a karyotype (picture) and each such pair has a number assigned from 1 to 22; the numbering generally follows the size of the chromosome, with chromosome 1 being the longest. In mammals, the sex chromosomes in a male are quite different in size and are labelled X and Y; a female has two identical X chromosomes.

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