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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

coined 1906 by U.S. cytologist T.H. Montgomery (1873-1912), from auto- + -some (3)). Related: Autosomal.


n. (context genetics English) Any chromosome other than sex chromosomes.


n. any chromosome that is not a sex chromosome; appear in pairs in body cells but as single chromosomes in spermatozoa [syn: somatic chromosome]


An autosome is a chromosome that is not an allosome (a sex chromosome). Autosomes appear in pairs whose members have the same form but differ from other pairs in a diploid cell, whereas members of an allosome pair may differ from one another and thereby determine sex. The DNA in autosomes is collectively known as atDNA or auDNA.

For example, humans have a diploid genome that usually contains 22 pairs of autosomes and one allosome pair (46 chromosomes total). The autosome pairs are labeled with numbers (1-22 in humans) roughly in order of their sizes in base pairs, while allosomes are labelled with their letters. By contrast, the allosome pair consists of two X chromosomes in females or one X and one Y chromosome in males. (Unusual combinations of XYY, XXY, XXX, XXXX, XXXXX or XXYY, among other allosome combinations, are known to occur and usually cause developmental abnormalities.) It is important to note that autosomes still contain sexual determination genes even though they are not sex chromosomes. For example, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome encodes the transcription factor TDF and is vital for male sex determination during development. TDF functions by activating the SOX9 gene on chromosome 17, so mutations of the SOX9 gene can cause humans with a Y chromosome to develop as females.

All human autosomes have been identified and mapped by extracting the chromosomes from a cell arrested in metaphase or prometaphase and then staining them with some sort of dye (most commonly Giemsa). These chromosomes are typically viewed as karyograms for easy comparison. Clinical geneticists can compare the karyogram of an individual to a reference karyogram to discover the cytogenetic basis of certain phenotypes. For example, the karyogram of someone with Patau Syndrome would show that they possess three copies of chromosome 13. Karyograms and staining techniques can only detect large-scale disruptions to chromosomes—chromosomal aberrations smaller than a few million base pairs generally cannot be seen on a karyogram.

Karyotype of human chromosomes

Female (XX)


There are two copies of each autosome (chromosomes 1-22) in both females and males. The sex chromosomes are different: There are two copies of the X-chromosome in females, but males have a single X-chromosome and a Y-chromosome.

Usage examples of "autosome".

Twenty-two pairs are called autosomes, the other pair is made up of the sex chromosomes.

Twenty-two pairs are called autosomes, the other pair is made up of the sex chromosomes.

Thus, for example, the autosomes will give you a voice box, and the sex hormones will determine whether it's going to be a deep male voice or a high female voice.