Difference Between Somatic and Germ Cells

Somatic vs Germ Cells

Between somatic and germ cells, we can see a number of differences but, before that, we need to learn the features of somatic cell and germ cell. What are somatic and germ cells? Somatic and germ cells are the two main cell types found in multicellular organisms. All the cell types of the body, with the exception of germ cells, is derived from the somatic cells. Both types of cells come from the zygote. Let’s look at each cell type in little more detail before moving on to the difference between somatic and germ cells.

What is a Somatic Cell?

A somatic cell is a cell that make the body tissues of multicellular organisms and does not have the ability to transfer genetic information to offspring. Somatic cells have two set of chromosomes, each received from two parents. Since, somatic cells do not have the ability to transfer genetic information, the mutations occur in these type of cells will not be passed to the next generation. However, it may cause other injuries like cancers. The somatic cell has the ability to convert into many types of cells in the body.

Difference Between Somatic and Germ Cells

Somatic cell in cloning

What is a Germ Cell?

A germ cell can be either a sperm or an egg or an early embryo; a cell that is involved in the reproduction of multicellular organisms. A germ cell is mainly responsible for the transmission of genetic information to next generations. Because it carries genetic information, mutations of germ cell can also be transferred from parent to offspring. Germ cells contain only one set of chromosomes. During the reproduction process, when two germ cells from each parent come together, they form a zygote. The zygote contains both maternal and paternal chromosomes. Both somatic and germ cells come from the zygote, which will be later converted into a new offspring. The production of the sperm cell is called spermatogenesis while the production of ovum is called oogenesis.

 Somatic vs Germ Cells

Intratubular germ cell neoplasia

What is the difference between Somatic and Germ Cells?

• Definition of Somatic and Germ Cells:

• Somatic cell is any cell of a multicellular organism with the exception of the cells that are predestined to form gametes or germ-line cells.

• Germ cell is a cell that have one set of chromosome and have the ability to transfer genetic information to next generations.

• Mutation:

• Mutations that occur in somatic cells affect only the individual and will not be passed on to the next generations. This mutation is responsible for most human cancers.

• Mutations that occur in germ cells can be passed to the offspring.

• Number of Chromosome Sets:

• Two sets of identical chromosomes are present in a somatic cell.

• One set of chromosomes is present in a germ cell.

• Ability to Transfer Genetic Information:

• Somatic cells cannot transfer their generic information to next generations.

• Germ cells can transfer their genetic information to next generations.

• Function:

• Somatic cells make all the body cells, except germ cells.

• Germ cells are important to transfer genetic information during the reproduction.

• Ability of Differentiation:

• Somatic cells can be differentiated into various types of cells in the body.

• Germ cells cannot be differentiated.

• Cell Division:

• Somatic cell is produced by mitosis.

• Germ cell is produced by meiosis.

• The amount of somatic cells is higher in an individual than the amount of germ cells.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Somatic cell in cloning by  Belkorin (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Intratubular germ cell neoplasia by Nephron (CC BY-SA 3.0)