Homologues and Chromatids

All body cells are diploid, meaning they contain pairs of each chromosome. One member of each pair comes from the individual's mother, and one from the father. The two members of each pair are called homologues. Members of a homologous pair carry the same set of genes, which occur in identical positions along the chromosome. The specific forms of each gene, called alleles, may be different: One chromosome may carry an allele for blue eyes, and the other an allele for brown eyes, for example.

Meiosis is the process by which homologous chromosomes are separated to form gametes. Gametes contain only one member of each pair of chromosomes. Prior to meiosis, each chromosome is replicated. The replicas, called sister chromatids, remain joined together at the centromere. Thus, as a cell starts meiosis, each chromosome is composed of two chro-matids and is paired with its homologue. The chromatids of two homologous chromosomes are called nonsister chromatids.

Meiosis occurs in two stages, called meiosis I and II. Meiosis I separates homologues from each other. Meiosis II separates sister chromatids from each other. Crossing over occurs in meiosis I. During crossing over, segments are exchanged between nonsister chromatids.

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