Diploid Cell

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A diploid cell contains two complete sets of chromosomes in its nucleus, whereas haploid cells only contain a single copy. Most human body cells are diploid, and only the gametes (sperm and egg cells) are haploid.

Chromosomes in diploid cells are arranged in homologous pairs. The diploid chromosome number of a cell (2n) is the total number of chromosomes in a cell. In the case of humans, 2n = 46, meaning there are a total of 46 chromosomes in a diploid human cell.

A diploid cell contains a complete set of chromosomes
What are diploid cells?

What is a Diploid Cell?

A diploid cell is a cell that contains a complete set of chromosomes in its nucleus. Each chromosome in a diploid cell has two copies, which are arranged in homologous pairs. These homologous pairs are not identical, but they do ‘match,’ meaning the chromosomes have the same genes in the same loci and are the same size and shape as one another.

Homologous chromosome pairs contain DNA from both parents of the organism; one chromosome from each pair is donated by the father, and the other by the mother.

Diploid cells contain twice as many chromosomes as haploid cells
A diploid cell contains two set of chromosomes; a haploid cell contains only one set

How Many Chromosomes Are in a Human Diploid Cell?

The diploid chromosome number (usually represented as 2n) is the number of chromosomes in a diploid cell’s nucleus. Human diploid cells contain 23 homologous chromosome pairs, making a total of 46 chromosomes. Therefore, the diploid chromosome number of human cells is 2n = 46.

Two of the chromosomes found in human cells are sex chromosomes, which determine the sex of the organism. Females have two X chromosomes (XX), whereas males have one X and one Y chromosome (XY). This is the only instance in which a homologous pair does not contain two copies of the same chromosome.

The 2n number of diploid cells varies significantly between organisms, as different species have different numbers of chromosomes. For example, the diploid number of garlic is 2n = 16, in dogs, it’s 2n = 28, and in elephants, the diploid number is 2n = 56.

The 2n number of diploid cells varies from species to species
The 2n number of diploid cells varies between species

Examples of Diploid Cells

All body (AKA somatic) cells are diploid. Therefore, the vast majority of cells in the human body are diploid and contain a full set of chromosomes. Examples of diploid cells in humans include:

The only human cells that are haploid (i.e., containing a single set of chromosomes) are the gametes, or sex cells. In humans, the haploid chromosome number is n = 23.

During sexual reproduction, the haploid sperm and egg cells fuse to make a single diploid cell (also called a zygote). The diploid zygote will contain genetic information from both of the parental sex cells; 50% from the egg cell, and 50% from the sperm cell.

All human somatic cells are diploid
Most cells of the human body are diploid

Diploid Cell Reproduction

Diploid cells reproduce via mitosis. During mitosis, the diploid parent cell replicates all of its DNA, creating a new set of chromosomes that are identical to the originals. As the cell divides, it donates a full set of DNA to the new daughter cell and, in doing so, creates a genetically identical copy of itself.

During mitosis, a cell makes a complete copy of it's DNA
Diploid cells reproduce by mitosis

The Diploid Life Cycle

Organisms that reproduce sexually (like humans) have a diploid-dominant life cycle and spend most of their lives as diploid adults. Almost all of their cells are diploid, the only exception being the haploid gametes. When they reach sexual maturity, diploid organisms will produce haploid sex cells using meiosis, a type of cell division that produces four non-identical cells. These non-identical daughter cells each contain half the number of chromosomes as the original cell.

When fertilization occurs, two haploid gametes fuse to create a diploid zygote. The zygote then divides via mitosis, producing two identical daughter cells. Through repeated rounds of cell division, the zygote eventually develops into a diploid adult, and the cycle continues.

Humans have a diploid-dominant life cycle
Two haploid gametes fuse to form a diploid zygote

Diploid Cells vs. Haploid Cells

The key differences between haploid and diploid cells are summarized in the table below.

Diploid Cells

Haploid Cells

Chromosome Number Contain two sets of chromosomes (2n) Contain a single set of chromosomes (n)
Reproduction Reproduce by mitosis Reproduce by meiosis
Examples Somatic (body) cells, e.g., skin cells, nerve cells, muscle cells, etc. Gametes, e.g., sperm and egg cells

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Biologydictionary.net Editors. “Diploid Cell.” Biology Dictionary, Biologydictionary.net, 15 Apr. 2021, https://biologydictionary.net/diploid-cell/.
Biologydictionary.net Editors. (2021, April 15). Diploid Cell. Retrieved from https://biologydictionary.net/diploid-cell/
Biologydictionary.net Editors. “Diploid Cell.” Biology Dictionary. Biologydictionary.net, April 15, 2021. https://biologydictionary.net/diploid-cell/.

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