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Difference between Euchromatin and Heterochromatin


Before differentiating between euchromatin and heterochromatin, one must understand what chromatin is. During the interphase, it is an essential component inside the cell nucleus made of DNA and histone proteins. Chromatin packs the DNA into small volumes to adjust in the cell, strengthening it for mitosis and meiosis. The entire chromatin structure is either euchromatin or heterochromatin, helping in replication gene expression and saving DNA from damage.

Although both are chromatin types, their dissimilarities make them significant. Now, if you wonder what do heterochromatin and euchromatin do, we have a complete article written on it below! However, euchromatin is the active chromatin inside the nucleus, whereas heterochromatin is the inactive form of chromatin. Let’s discuss the differences between euchromatin and heterochromatin in detail.

Comparison Table

and prokaryotes
LocationCentre of the cellCell’s periphery
StructureBeaded structureCompact structure
and gene variation
Genome structure,
and gene regulation
Process influence
Genome content90% in humans8-10% in humans
StickinessNo such regionsSticky
StainingLightly stainedDark stained
ExamplesMost chromosomesGenes 1, 9, 16

What is Chromatin?

As mentioned earlier, chromatin is the genetic material inside the nucleus, made of DNA and proteins. DNA carries genetic information, while proteins help bind the genetic material into a compact form to fit in the nucleus. Chromatin is the unwound form of chromosomes that packages to create chromosomes at the time of division. A complete chromatin body is divided into euchromatin and heterochromatin.

Let’s continue to know about euchromatin vs heterochromatin.

What is Euchromatin?

According to the name Euchromatin, the “true chromatin” is loosely packed and actively involved in transcription to produce mRNA. The structure of euchromatin and nucleosomes is alike, with 147 DNA base pairs wrapped around the histone proteins. The loosely bound DNA enables quick transcription due to its immediate availability. The gene-regulating mechanism makes it possible to transform heterochromatin into euchromatin and vice versa. Euchromatin is involved in transcription using active genes and helps encode functional proteins. Euchromatin is said to contain 90% of the total human genome


What is Heterochromatin?

Now, the subsequent question coming to your mind must be how is euchromatin different from heterochromatin? Although both replicate at different times, heterochromatin is the highly compact and dense chromatin, preventing RNA and DNA polymerase and other proteins from finding their way to the DNA. Heterochromatin is only present in the nucleus of eukaryotes to help in replication. It is of two types, facultative and constitutive heterochromatin. The facultative heterochromosomes are inactive genes and are not a permanent feature of all cell nuclei. They form through the process of siRNA or histone methylation. Alternatively, constitutive heterochromatin makes the repetitive, functional genes like centromeres and telomeres. They are the continuing nature of the nucleus and retain their structure during the interphase of cell division.


Similarities between Euchromatin and Heterochromatin

Besides the euchromatin and heterochromatin differences, these will remain the types of chromatins; thus, they have some common points. These are explained below:

  • Both are the DNA sequences formed of polynucleotide chains but with different functions.
  • Besides, both are assembled via primary nucleosome assembly.
  • Moreover, these types of chromatins are prominent during the interphase stage of cell division.
  • Euchromatin and heterochromatin have special features to interact with a specific type of protein called histone protein. These protein structures help in chromosome packaging.

Euchromatin vs Heterochromatin – Primary Differences



Euchromatin is the loosely packed form of DNA containing different segments of genes in the nucleus and transcription.


On the other hand, heterochromatin is tightly packed DNA present in the nucleus and is transcriptionally inactive.



The loose part of chromatin, i.e., euchromatin, is found in the nucleus of both prokaryotes and eukaryotes.


Unlike euchromatin, you can observe heterochromatin only in eukaryotic organisms through a microscope.



You will observe euchromatin widely distributed in the center or inner body of the nucleus.


Whereas, when going through euchromatin vs heterochromatin, the latter is more prominent along the periphery of the cell nucleus.



The DNA of euchromatin forms a loose beaded structure within the nucleus to fit well.


However, the DNA of a heterochromatin is wrapped around a structural protein called histone protein to form a compact structure.



Euchromatin is entirely different from heterochromatin when it comes to functions. It enables the process of transcription and gene variation occurring within the genes.


In contrast, heterochromatin is responsible for maintaining the structure of the genome and gene expression regulation.



Euchromatin is transcriptionally active and involved in transcription that further helps maintain the chromosomal organization and cellular functions.


Contrary to euchromatin, heterochromatin is not involved in transcription and is transcriptionally inactive.

Genetic Process Influence


There is a substantial genetic influence on the chromatin types. For example, euchromatin is affected by numerous genetic processes like position-effect variegation.


Discussing the other type of chromatin, i.e., heterochromatin, is not even slightly affected by the genetic processes.

Genome Content


Euchromatin comprises most of the human genome, comprising around 90% of the total.


Whereas heterochromatin makes a smaller part of the genome, making around 8 – 10% of the human genome.



In the euchromatin vs. heterochromatin race, the former does not have sticky regions in the structure.


Alternatively, heterochromatin has some sticky regions to help chromatin make its place inside the nucleus.



Euchromatin appears as the lightly stained type of chromatin.


When observed under a microscope, heterochromatin appears to be darkly stained.



All types of chromosomes in a genome are examples of euchromatin besides heterochromatin.


Some of the heterochromatin present in the genome are genes 1, 9, and 16.


The Bottom Line

Heterochromatin and euchromatin are both types of chromatin and essential parts of the cell. When discussing euchromatin vs heterochromatin, both are different and have specific roles. The euchromatin is directly involved in transcription, while heterochromatin maintains the genome structure. There must be numerous differences between the two, but heterochromatin contributes to 10% of the genome in eukaryotes. In short, euchromatin and heterochromatin are crucial in stabilizing gene regulation and balancing the human genome.


How does the euchromatin look under a microscope?

You cannot see hetero and euchromatin distinctly under a student microscope. However, one can easily observe it under a compound or electron microscope. Heterochromatin is darkly stained, loosely packed chromatin, while euchromatin is comparatively stained as light pink.

What does the chromatin turn into?

Chromatin folds into specific formations called chromosomes having DNA strands and proteins. They contain the genetic material of the cell and are involved in cell division.

How much chromatin does each chromosome have?

Each chromatin forms one chromosome, which means that every chromosome has one chromatin.

What are the components of chromatin?

Chromatin is primarily made of histone proteins, DNA and RNA. Sometimes, students wonder if it contains lipids; no, lipids are not a component of chromatin.

Is chromatin present in bacteria?

Chromatin is not present in bacteria in the same shape as eukaryotes. However, it forms a membrane-free region commonly known as the nucleoid that modifies shape according to the bacterial state.

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