Chromosomal aneuploidy is a fundamental characteristic of the human species. In this review we summarize the knowledge about the origin and mechanisms of nondisjunction in human trisomy 21 that has accumulated during the last decade by using DNA polymorphism analysis. The first molecular correlate of nondisjunction in humans is altered recombination, meiosis I errors being associated with reduced recombination and maternal meiosis II errors with increased recombination between the nondisjoined chromosomes. Thus, virtually all maternal meiotic errors of chromosome 21 seem to be initiated in meiosis I. Advanced maternal age remains the only well documented risk factor for maternal meiotic nondisjunction, but there is, however, still a surprising lack of understanding of the basic mechanisms behind the maternal age effect.
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