Aneuploidy in human eggs is the leading cause of pregnancy loss and Down's syndrome. Aneuploid eggs result from chromosome segregation errors when an egg develops from a progenitor cell, called an oocyte. The mechanisms that lead to an increase in aneuploidy with advanced maternal age are largely unclear. Here, we show that many sister kinetochores in human oocytes are separated and do not behave as a single functional unit during the first meiotic division. Having separated sister kinetochores allowed bivalents to rotate by 90 degrees on the spindle and increased the risk of merotelic kinetochore-microtubule attachments. Advanced maternal age led to an increase in sister kinetochore separation, rotated bivalents and merotelic attachments. Chromosome arm cohesion was weakened, and the fraction of bivalents that precociously dissociated into univalents was increased. Together, our data reveal multiple age-related changes in chromosome architecture that could explain why oocyte aneuploidy increases with advanced maternal age.
Human subjects: The use of immature unfertilized human oocytes in this study has been approved by the UK's National Research Ethics Service under the REC reference 11/EE/0346; IRAS Project ID 84952. Immature unfertilized oocytes were donated by women receiving assisted reproduction treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic (Cambridge, UK).
- Andrea Musacchio, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Germany
© 2015, Zielinska et al.
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