Tetraploid: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 Chromosomes & Tetraploids
  • 1:32 Functions & Examples
  • 2:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Meredith Mikell
Chromosomes are the gene-containing structures found in the cells of every living thing. Tetraploid organisms have a unique count of these chromosomes, resulting in unique gene expressions. We'll explore the definition of the term tetraploid and examine some examples in this lesson.


Chances are, you look like one or both of your biological parents. This is because you inherited half of your chromosomes from your mother and half from your father. Chromosomes are bundles of DNA, each containing genes that code for your physical, behavioral, and functional traits and characteristics. Organisms that are tetraploid have four times the regular number of chromosomes.

Different species of organisms have different numbers of chromosomes, and the gametes of sexually-reproducing organisms, or sex cells like eggs and sperm, each contain half of the total number. This is so that when gametes come together during fertilization, the offspring gets a complete set. A cell containing half the number of total possible chromosomes, like gametes, is said to be haploid (n), while a cell containing the full number is diploid (2n).

There are interesting cases in which organisms might contain more or fewer chromosomes than normal. When there are more chromosomes than usual, the condition is known as polyploidy. Though rather rare, this can occur in humans and cause conditions such as trisomy (n+1), an extra chromosome, such as Down Syndrome, or monosomy (n-1), when there is a missing a chromosome, which is usually lethal.

Missing or extra chromosomes in humans can lead to negative developments, but polyploidy is actually common in plants. It can even result in organisms that have quadruple the number of haploid chromosomes: tetraploids!

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