Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS) (OMIM #122470, #300590 and #610759) is a dominant genetic disorder with multiple organ system abnormalities which is classically characterized by typical facial features, growth and mental retardation, upper limb defects, hirsutism, gastrointestinal and other visceral system involvement. Mutations in three cohesin proteins, a key regulator of cohesin, NIPBL, and two structural components of the cohesin ring SMC1A and SMC3, etiologically account for about 65% of individuals with CdLS. Cohesin controls faithful chromosome segregation during the mitotic and meiotic cell cycles. Multiple proteins in the cohesin pathway are also involved in additional fundamental biological events such as double-strand DNA break repair and long-range regulation of transcription. Moreover, chromosome instability was recently associated with defective sister chromatid cohesion in several cancer studies, and an increasing number of human developmental disorders is being reported to result from disruption of this pathway. Here, we will discuss the human disorders caused by alterations of cohesin function (termed 'cohesinopathies'), with an emphasis on the clinical manifestations of CdLS and mechanistic studies of the CdLS-related proteins.