Telomere length is associated with types of chromosome 21 nondisjunction: a new insight into the maternal age effect on Down syndrome birth
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- Ghosh, S., Feingold, E., Chakraborty, S. et al. Hum Genet (2010) 127: 403. doi:10.1007/s00439-009-0785-8
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Advanced maternal age is a well-documented risk factor of chromosome 21 nondisjunction in humans, but understanding of this association at the genetic level is still limited. In particular, the state of maternal genetic age is unclear. In the present study, we estimated maternal genetic age by measuring telomere length of peripheral blood lymphocytes among age-matched mothers of children with Down syndrome (cases: N = 75) and mothers of euploid children (controls: N = 75) in an age range of 18–42 years. All blood samples were taken within 1 week of the birth of the child in both cases and controls. The telomere length estimation was performed by restriction digestion—Southern blot hybridization method. We stratified the cases on the basis of centromeric STR genotyping into maternal meiosis I (N = 48) and maternal meiosis II (N = 27) nondisjunction groups and used linear regression to compare telomere length as a function of age in the euploid, meiosis I and meiosis II groups. Our results show that all three groups have similar telomere length on average for younger mothers. As age increases, all groups show telomere loss, but that loss is largest in the meiosis II mother group and smallest in the euploid mother group with the meiosis I mother group in the middle. The regression lines for all three were statistically significantly different from each other (p < 0.001). Our results do not support the theory that younger women who have babies with Down syndrome do so because are ‘genetically older’ than their chronological age, but we provide the first evidence that older mothers who have babies with Down syndrome are “genetically older” than controls, who have euploid babies at the same age. We also show for the first time that telomere length attrition may be associated in some way with meiosis I and meiosis II nondisjunction of chromosome 21 and subsequent Down syndrome births at advanced maternal age.