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Germ-line transmission of trisomy 21: Data from 80 families suggest an implication of grandmaternal age and a high frequency of female-specific trisomy rescue

Author(s): Kovaleva Natalia

Journal: Molecular Cytogenetics
ISSN 1755-8166

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Trisomy of chromosome 21 (T21; Down syndrome, DS) is the most common aneuploidy in live births. Though its etiology has been intensively studied for a half of century, there are surprisingly many problems awaiting their elucidation. Some of the open questions are related directly to germ line mosaicism for T21, other problems include the prevalence of males with non-mosaic trisomy over females (skewed sex ratio, SR), the genetic predisposition to non-disjunction, etc. Studies in families of gonadal mosaicism (GM) carriers might help resolving some of these problems. Results 80 families of carriers of GM, in which the sex of the offspring had been specified, were identified in the literature and in logbooks of two local genetic units. Mothers in these families were relatively young: only 8% of mothers were 35 years old and older at the time of delivery of their first affected offspring while the proportion of grandmothers on the GM carrier's side aged 35 years old and older was significantly higher (39%). Postzygotic rescue of T21 due to error in the meiosis I had been proposed as a mechanism of parental GM formation in 78% of the families with known origin of the T21. For the other 22%, rescue of errors in the meiosis II or postzygotic mitotic non-disjunction was assumed. Mosaicism for T21 in successive generations was reported in at least 12 families. The proportion of mosaics among affected female offspring (14%) is significantly higher compared to that among affected male offspring (0%). Male preponderance (SR = 1.5) is found in non mosaic liveborn offspring with either maternally- or paternally transmitted T21. Among unaffected offspring of male carriers of GM there is a notable excess of females (SR = 0.27). Conclusion Both direct (results of cytogenetic and molecular study of the origin of trisomic line) and indirect (advanced grandmaternal age on the side of GM carrier) evidences allow to assume that significant proportion of the mosaic parents had been conceived as trisomics. Female-specific trisomy rescue and genetic predisposition to postzygotic non-disjunction has been suggested as mechanisms of formation of both GM and somatic mosaicism. Typical male preponderance in affected non mosaic offspring with either maternally- or paternally transmitted trisomy 21, indicates than meiotic events are not responsible for the skewed sex ratio in DS. However a female excess among unaffected offspring of male carriers of GM might be the result of meiotic non homologous co-orientation of chromosomes 21 and X in spermatogenesis.
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