Mistakes during cell division frequently generate changes in chromosome content, producing aneuploid or polyploid progeny cells. Polyploid cells may then undergo abnormal division to generate aneuploid cells. Chromosome segregation errors may also involve fragments of whole chromosomes. A major consequence of segregation defects is change in the relative dosage of products from genes located on the missegregated chromosomes. Abnormal expression of transcriptional regulators can also impact genes on the properly segregated chromosomes. The consequences of these perturbations in gene expression depend on the specific chromosomes affected and on the interplay of the aneuploid phenotype with the environment. Most often, these novel chromosome distributions are detrimental to the health and survival of the organism. However, in a changed environment, alterations in gene copy number may generate a more highly adapted phenotype. Chromosome segregation errors also have important implications in human health. They may promote drug resistance in pathogenic microorganisms. In cancer cells, they are a source for genetic and phenotypic variability that may select for populations with increased malignance and resistance to therapy. Lastly, chromosome segregation errors during gamete formation in meiosis are a primary cause of human birth defects and infertility. This review describes the consequences of mitotic and meiotic errors focusing on novel concepts and human health.
Keywords: aneuploidy; birth defects; cancer; centromere; chromosome instability; drug resistance; fertility; kinetochore; microtubule; polyploidy.