Biological aging and the etiology of aneuploidy

Cytogenet Genome Res. 2005;111(3-4):266-72. doi: 10.1159/000086899.


A prevalent hypothesis concerning the cause of the rise in aneuploid conceptions with maternal age is that the changes that accompany normal ovarian aging increase the rate of meiotic errors in the oocyte. Biological aging of the ovary is accompanied by a decline in both the total oocyte pool and the number of antral follicles maturing per cycle, as well as changes in the levels of circulating reproductive hormones. The biological aging hypothesis predicts that aneuploidy rates should be higher in women with a prematurely reduced oocyte pool, and that women with trisomic conceptions should show signs of earlier ovarian aging than women of the same chronological age without trisomic conceptions. Comprehensive studies of aneuploidy in groups of women with known causes of premature ovarian failure remain to be done, though anecdotal evidence does suggest increased rates of pregnancy loss and aneuploidy. Smoking, which is a well-documented cause of earlier ovarian aging, is not associated with an increase in aneuploid conceptions. Evidence from women with unilateral ovariectomies is inconsistent. Support for the biological aging hypothesis was provided by one study showing that menopause occurred about a year earlier in women with a trisomic spontaneous abortion compared to women with chromosomally normal conceptions. Associations between high FSH and pregnancies with Down syndrome and chromosomally abnormal spontaneous abortions have also been reported. However, the most direct test of the hypothesis, which compared antral follicle counts and hormonal levels in women with trisomic pregnancies and those with chromosomally normal pregnancies, failed to find a difference in the expected direction. A prospective study of FSH levels in women with subfertility also failed to find an association with the rate of pregnancy loss. The bulk of evidence thus suggests that, if the processes of biological aging are indeed related to aneuploidy, they probably involve factors other than those measured by oocyte or antral follicle pool size and reproductive hormone levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aneuploidy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Oocytes / cytology*
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Pregnancy