The leading cause of Down syndrome (DS) is nondisjunction of chromosome 21 occurring during the formation of gametes. In this review, we discuss the progress made to identify risk factors associated with this type of chromosome error occurring in oogenesis and spermatogenesis. For errors occurring in oocytes, the primary risk factors are maternal age and altered recombination. We review the current progress made with respect to these factors and briefly outline the potential environmental and genetic influences that may play a role. Although the studies of paternal nondisjunction are limited due to the relatively small proportion of errors of this type, we review the potential influence of paternal age, recombination and other environmental and genetic factors on susceptibility. Although progress has been made to understand the mechanisms and risk factors that underlie nondisjunction, considerably more research needs to be conducted to dissect this multifactorial trait, one that has a considerable impact on our species.
Copyright 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel.